A visit to the first zero waste shop in Wales

It is no secret that I have really missed bulk food stores since coming to Wales. There is something delightfully meditative about bulk food shopping, puddling about filling my own bags and containers is much more fun that rushing around a supermarket. Not to mention the environmental benefits of reduced single-use packaging.

I was pretty excited when I heard that a zero waste shop had opened earlier this year in Wales. The Natural Weigh is the first zero waste shop in Wales (although it is soon to be joined by a couple of others that I know of – Ripple and Viva Organic in Cardiff). It is located in Crickhowell – and being absolutely terrible at UK geography I had to look up where that was when it opened back in March. Turns out it is a three and a half hour bike ride from Cardiff (which after our trip to Brecon, I estimate might actually take me close to double that).

However, last weekend I finally had the opportunity to visit! My sister and her family were visiting us in Wales, so I sneakily navigated our weekend away to the Brecon Beacons via Crickhowell with the sole motivation of visiting the Natural Weigh. The rest of Crickhowell is rather lovely, so no one was complaining (just as well, because I spent far more time than necessary checking out everything they had in the store and chatting to the co-owner, Robin).

PictureAll the wonderful zero waste goodies we bought!

Some of my favourite things about the Natural Weigh are:

  • There is a really awesome story behind the building that they are in – it is a former pub that the community bought to prevent it falling into the hands of a chain supermarket. Read about it here. The high street of Crickhowell has a lovely feel because it is pretty much entirely independent shops, and the former pub now houses three independent shops – one of which is the Natural Weigh.
  • They source most of their stock from a supplier in Bristol, who is also committed to plastic-free packaging. They also responsibly dispose of their own waste and the only thing they send to landfill is the sticky tape from boxes they receive. I feel this is super important, because since reading this post by the Rogue Ginger a while ago, I have been concerned that rather than reduce waste by bulk shopping I am just shifting it further up the supply chain.
  • Their range of zero waste lifestyle products include some locally-made gems. After first meeting Debbie (of Tabitha Eve Co) at the launch of the Authentic House Home Box, I was really excited to purchase some None Sponges. These are handmade just north of Cardiff and should have a much longer useful life than the dodgy plastic sponges we have been using recently (and break down much quicker in the compost afterwards!).

I have bulk shopped in quite a few places (in Australia, New Zealand and the US), but the barcode system at the Natural Weigh was new to me. Rather than noting down the container tare (weight) and product number, they have a nifty system that prints a barcode and then you scan it to work out the weight (and price!) of your food minus the weight of the container (that isn’t a great explanation – I promise it is actually quite simple). It is much easier and saves time at the check out compared to manually entering the tare and product number for each item. On the downside, it does mean some waste is produced.

Trying new things is one of my favourite things about visiting new bulk food stores – I am interested to see how this textured vegetable protein (TVP) goes! The hemp seeds were a freebie to try out.
If you are in the area, I would highly recommend dropping in to the Natural Weigh to check it out, support some local businesses and (of course) avoid creating some plastic pollution.
Related links:

  • Plastic Free July starts this weekend! Originally an Australian initiative, it has been pretty exciting to watch it grow into a global phenomenon. There are so many resources on the website, so it is worth having a look around.
  • It is amazing how quickly businesses have responded to public pressure around single use plastics. Fast food giant McDonald’s is going to source paper straws from a manufacturer right here in Wales (so you can feel better while drinking out of your plastic or plastic-lined cup?). Morrisons is also switching to paper bags – although according to a study by the Environment Agency these have a greater contribution to climate change than plastic ones. A better solution is just to put things loose in your basket, or make yourself some delightful fabric bags from vintage fabric.
  • Meanwhile in Australia a senate inquiry has recommended that all single-use plastics be banned by 2023. If India can do it by 2022, hopefully Australia can too!
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