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Study: How do consumers use zero-waste units in organic markets

by Leo Frühschütz (comments: 0)

Zero-waste unit
Zero-waste unit © hawos

Scientists from the University of Sustainable Development Eberswalde asked customers of two organic markets in Berlin about their experiences with the zero-waste units set up there. The conclusion is that stores have to do more to facilitate and thus support the purchase of unpacked goods.

Of the 100 respondents per store, 80 percent had noticed the zero-waste units in the store. Nearly half of them indicated that they use the offered unpacked product selection. Reasons for this were mainly environmental reasons and the possibility of avoiding packaging and plastic. Personal advantages such as the possibility of demand-based purchases or fresher, healthier products were stated less frequently as purchase motives.

Spontaneous purchases are difficult

When asked about the challenges of purchasing unpacked goods, customers most often stated that spontaneous purchases were difficult, that the organization and planning of purchases present a barrier and that container management, i.e. the availability of suitable and sufficient numbers of containers, was challenging. Nevertheless, there were hardly any customers who saw these challenges as reasons to not use the zero-waste units at all.

Assumptions about high price premiums as purchase barrier

Customers who had so far ignored the zero-waste units explain this with time aspects, increased effort, insufficient, unattractive product selection and price premiums of unpackaged products as reasons for this. However, the product prices are at least partly similar to prices of packaged products, note the scientists in the study. They conclude from the survey results that the supermarkets can contribute largely to ensure a more positive perception and more frequent usage of the offered units. This could be done by educating about the selection, increasing the visibility of the units and facilitating the usage on a day-to-day basis.

The survey is part of the research project “Der Verpackungsfreie Supermarkt: Stand und Perspektiven” (The Packaging-Free Supermarket: Status and Perspectives) conducted by the University for Sustainable Development Eberswalde.

Editor’s comment

For customers, purchasing at unpackaged stations is automatically involved with more planning effort. As we found out, the “New Leaf Co-Op” in Edinburgh counteracts this problem by providing boxes and shelves full of old containers that can be used by costumers: for example, empty herb jars, peanut butter glasses, smoothie bottles or cups – all cleaned of course. What would have otherwise ended up as garbage or waste glass thus becomes a container for spontaneous shopping at the zero-waste unit.

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