Showcases / Refilling – a simple but great idea to cut back on single-use plastics

Scoop owner Ann Johnson (left) and shop assistant Kirsten Williamsen: 'Looking for alternatives to plastic bags'. All photos: Hans J Marter/Shetland News

SHETLAND’s only wholefoods shop has just introduced a new service that helps their environmentally conscious customers further cut down on single-use plastics.

Scoop Wholefoods now sells 40 essential foods – ranging from porridge oats to lentils, pasta and treats such as chocolate-coated raisins – using a bank of refilling dispensers, eliminating the need for plastic packaging.

In doing so Scoop joins the growing number of businesses that offer a refilling service and, in a way, reconnects with its very early history when the Shetland Co-op, or Scoop, was run by Marianne Tarrant and others from the Old Infant’s School on King Harald Street where wholefoods were ‘scooped’ and sold out of large bags back in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Scoop owner Ann Johnson said she spent some time researching different refill options before deciding what would suit best for her already very busy shop at the Toll Clock Shopping Centre.

“I was concerned with single-use plastics so I looked for alternatives to plastic bags, and then decided the best option was a refill system.” she said.

While most groceries on the mainland that offer a refill service do this as a self-service, such as The Refillery and the Eco Larder in Edinburgh, this wasn’t an option for Ann due to the lack of floor space in the shop.

“So we decided to try have it behind the counter and serve people,” she said. While this means extra work for her staff, it has the undeniable advantage that customers are not left struggling with the weighing and labelling process.

So how does it work? Customers can bring their own container(s) for refilling and or buy their cereals, sunflower seeds or dried fruit in a paper bag, which can be re-used several times.

Ann said: “Folk are saying it is a great idea as it reduces single-use plastics and people like the idea of bringing their own container”, a fact confirmed by customer Helen Erwood who described the new refill system as “fantastic” because it was so simple.

Shop assistant Kirsten Williamson added that porridge oats had proved to be the most popular product so far, as she had to refill the dispenser several times a day.

To further cut down on packaging an plastic bag, customers can now carry away their shopping by re-using cardboard boxes which can be picked up from outside the shop.

It is too early to say how much plastic Scoop will eventually be able to cut out from packaging.

However, it is worth remembering that 25 per cent of plastic produced globally goes into food packaging, so any reduction that can be made locally will ultimately have a positive impact on the environment.

Scoop Wholefoods can be found at the Toll Clock Shopping Centre. Opening hours are Monday to Saturday, 9.00am to 5.30pm. They can also be found online at: http://www.scoopwholefoods.co.uk