**This article has been automatically translated and contains French/Quebec references.**
I imagine that not many people dream of ideal grocery stores in their lives, but I do!
Yeah, what excites me about "futuristic" visions isn't flying cars or household robots (or let's say household androids, because household robots exist)... it's zero-waste supermarkets!
You might tell me that there are zero-waste grocery stores. That's true, but clearly, they aren't large enough for EVERYONE to go, and if I want tacos, mirin, Leclerc biscuits, Saint-Hubert frozen chicken fillets, what do I do? Well, I have no choice but to go to the regular grocery store, and then I regret throwing away their packaging afterward.
It's frustrating to have to limit my diet because big brands over-package their products! I hate them for that. And I'm on a zero-waste journey. So, I make a lot of effort and limit myself a lot. But nobody wants to limit their diet and complicate their life for the environment! Going to 3-4 different places every week and cooking everything from scratch with what we can find without packaging: it's really not easy.
This brings me to another question: Why do all eco-friendly actions always have to start with us, in our homes? Why don't Heinz, Oasis, and Tostitos rethink their offerings to provide bulk options? Otherwise, they have the money to find and implement solutions to eliminate plastic from their factories! And again, it's the chicken or the egg! The grocery store needs to be able to offer displays for bulk, or we need to rethink the entire deposit system.
At least, I tell myself that people will follow if we offer them good solutions! We're already used to deposits for beer and cans. We already bring our reusable bags and mesh produce bags to the grocery store. It's a good start, but collectively we can do more. And I have hope that we will get there.
Already, some banners accepted containers for cheese, deli, and meat before COVID. That was a really good step in the right direction!
Well, in the future, I see it even bigger than that!
HOW DO I SEE THE GROCERY OF THE FUTURE?
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
First of all, we need to review the fruits and vegetables that do not need to be in bags! It’s still a scourge.
> A cucumber wrapped in saran wrap = WHY??
> Apples too... A bag of apples that are too tight, poached... we can take the little one 2 minutes more to put them in our fabric mesh bag! No need to offer plastic bags.
> Celery does not need to be bagged. Neither do carrots. Fresh herbs and salads, even mixed, can be in bulk.
Big rubber bands: we have to stop that! Broccoli or asparagus can very well be sold by the pound instead of individually to stop putting damn rubber bands.
For small fruits (really small and fragile), why not think about a returnable container; the plastic kind of milk crate, but cool and beautiful format: small, solid, stackable, which closes and protects the fruit. Universal all over the world. We bring them back to the grocery store to get our $1 refunded.
CHEESE, CHARCUTERY, BUTCHER, FISH...
These are counters already designed to offer bulk! You just need to improve them.
First of all, we must remove the choice from customers to get their already sliced ham from the fridges, but in return, we must offer more service at the counter! For example, many more fast and trained employees so that we don't have to wait long and we have a pleasant experience.
You should have the feeling of finding a “real” butcher shop or a “real” cheese shop right in your grocery store and not a semi-counter near a bunch of fridges filled with the same products in vacuum bags, or stuck in a #6 polystyrene with saran wrap.
SAUCES AND CONDIMENTS
Jars of tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, spag sauce, mayo, ketchup, BBQ or Asian sauces, hot sauces, pickles, beets and ALL canning… They should all be in returnable containers.
Same operation as beers. Quebec beers all respect the same bottle format, so, for sauces, it would be a question of respecting the same shape of returnable jars. Three sizes: small, medium, large. Bing bang. With water-soluble labels.
OR we do like oils, which already have functional systems in ZD grocery stores. We're coming to fill our bottle! The ketchup could be in bulk and we refill our bottle. We could even think of a universal resealable returnable bottle format for oils, sauces, vinegars, vinaigrettes, etc.
DAIRY PRODUCTS (AND OTHER LIQUIDS) AND EGGS
The milk could so well come from a fountain! This is already happening in bulk grocery stores. If people forget their bottles, we take the returnable bottle, the same universal one as above.
I also dream of a solution for plant-based milks. I'm just so tired of throwing away (in the recycling bin because it can be recycled, but still) hundreds of Tetra-packs per year. Same thing for juices. Juice fountains. Parents can come and have their 7 reusable mini bottles refilled as needed, instead of buying small sizes for lunches! What about a Dasani water fountain to fill your reusable water bottles with “spring” water.
Otherwise, ALL in cans, like soft drinks!
Yogurts, the damn yogurt containers! That too, on deposit!!
Eggs are chill. It already comes in boxes that can be recycled AND composted. It's the most fragile thing at the grocery store, so eggs deserve to have their carton. Especially since the bulk option – taking 12 eggs from a pack of 36 in the fridge to put them in our container – is not so optimal. Eggs in a polystyrene packaging are just a big NO.
Flour, rice, pasta, sugar, brown sugar, all of this can come in bulk or in returnable containers (large format).
For the coffee section: There is already bulk coffee, why not do everything in bulk? Otherwise, ground in a returnable jar, the same “Universals” as above.
Coffee Pods > returnable! In a self-service rack per unit; no need for a cardboard box to pack the packaging.
I dream of everyone having the official reusable pizza “box” . We take it to the grocery store and all the pizzas are in bulk, separated by a little paper. We grab the tongs and put our pizza in our box.
I also dream of Saint-Hubert croquettes in bulk, McCain or Cavendish fries in bulk (and you know, what's beautiful is that at some point, we come to know exactly how much we need to always fill our plate), frozen fruits and vegetables in bulk.
Prepared meals are not easy... In reusable containers? Or at least ALL 100% recyclable, that would be something!
We agree that laundry soaps, dish soaps, hand/body soaps, shampoos, cleaning products… all of these are already available in bulk everywhere? All it takes is for Tide, Gain, La Parisienne, Finish, Cascade, Vim, Hertel, Attitude, Bio-Vert and all the other major brands to get on board and make their offer in bulk cans, bulk powder or bulk tablets for grocery stores. Please, big brands, stop putting that in plastic packaging! You are a nuisance to our landfills!
Well, there are a lot of products that I haven't covered, but it's already quite long 😂!
And for several products, I have no solution. Like, industrial bread…
Sweet and savory biscuits and crisps too…
This would require “other” packaging that maintains freshness. I don't know what could be... but clearly their packagings are terrible, environmentally speaking!
It’s certain that all of this is a nasty step in terms of management for a grocery store! But, if you do nothing, nothing happens...
Well, I'll continue to dream and see it possible. I already see a gigantic return service counter for returnable containers!
In the meantime, if products can at least be put in cardboard or super thick paper like flour bags instead of plastic, that would be a good start! Like a packet of pasta, dishwasher tablets, rice, it can come in cardboard/paper.
Well, at least I have solutions for everything else, so GO! Companies, grocery stores and people, do something!