All Good Market

Helping Stamford stock up on staples plastic free

This week PFS took some time out to catch up with local Plastic Free Champion, Annabel Britton from ALL GOOD Market on St Paul’s Street – a lovely refill shop that also sells a wide range of local produce. ALL GOOD gives you the opportunity to stock up on a wide range of staples – pasta, rice, flour, herbs and spices, dried fruit, even washing up liquid and shower gel, while massively reducing the need for single use packaging.

Starting a new venture during a global pandemic is no mean feat, but with such a clear focus on reducing single use plastic, we couldn’t help but want to find out more….

Plastic Free Stamford: Can you tell us a little bit about why you started your refill business and what motivated you to focus on helping others reduce their single use packaging?

Annabel Britton: After graduating uni, I lived in Paris and used a zero waste shop there, which was brilliant. I came home for lockdown and started to notice how much more packaging waste we produced as a family, compared to how I had been living. However, there wasn’t a shop local to us where we could buy refills. I felt this was a glaring gap in the market in Stamford and a quick survey posted on Facebook confirmed my suspicions.*

PFS: So what can people expect from a trip to ALL GOOD and how does it all work?

AB: I look to offer a really personalised service and an enjoyable shopping experience – this is not like going to the supermarket! Usually until a customer is a regular, I serve them or help them and tend to ‘walk people through it’ to begin with. I’m there to help, so there’s no need to worry about what not having shopped in a refill shop before.

PFS: And what should people bring?

AB: Any bags or containers they can remember. They don’t need to be pretty Kilner jars – you can bring old bread bags, egg boxes, takeaway containers, gin bottles… the best thing I’ve refilled so far was the plastic packaging of an Easter egg. I do also have paper bags and sterilised containers which people are welcome to take for free.

PFS: What packaging do your products come in and what happens to it?

AB: Good question! I will answer with full transparency. It pretty much falls into three camps.

For eggs, coffee, oils, cleaning products, milk, tea and kimchi, any packaging is returned to the supplier to be reused, so it’s a completely closed-loop system.

For dried products (rice, oats, flour, etc.) I am saving the sacks and have grand plans to upcycle them. Don’t want to give the game away!

Spices, nuts, dried fruit and some seeds come in plastic packaging which isn’t recyclable. This is regrettable but mostly necessary to preserve the quality. However, I think that one 5kg bag of cashew nuts is preferable to 20 250g bags.

PFS: What do you see as the biggest barriers to people using a refill shop and how can you help them overcome this?

AB: From my customers, I perceive the biggest barrier being a lack of time. A lot of people have so much on their plate – this year more than ever – and remembering to bring containers, or go to more than one shop to buy food, is a bit too much to ask sometimes. This is part of the reason I offer delivery, I really want to reach as many people as possible. 

PFS: Tell us a bit about your mission to champion local producers and why this is so important.

AB: It dawned on me that we live in a part of the country which is almost defined by agriculture. Perhaps this is particularly immediate to me because it is my Dad’s career. But I just thought it’s completely doolally that a farmer could produce eggs or potatoes or milk locally, and sell them to Tesco, and they end up being sold in Carlisle. And then a farmer in Cumbria producing the same thing might sell their’s to Waitrose and they end up in the Stamford branch. It’s just nonsensical.

PFS: What has been the best thing about setting up on your own?

AB: The best thing is having complete control! The shop is such a creative outlet and if I want to post something on Instagram, sell a gingerbread kit or launch a delivery service, I don’t have to consult anyone. I can put my ideas into action as quickly as I want.

PFS: And finally, what’s next for ALL GOOD? Any exciting plans and ideas up your sleeve?

AB: Since Christmas I’ve launched a lot of new products, a delivery service and takeaway filter coffee with locally produced Two Chimps coffee, but my focus now is on trying to improve the existing website and doing lots of marketing as ever.

*Stamford is incredibly lucky in that it now has three refill options – joining ALL GOOD, Refill Revolution offers a local refill delivery only service and the Eco Shop at Great Casterton has also recently opened. Each has their own distinct selection of products and unique selling points – they are all of course Plastic Free Champions.

Plastic Free Stamford’s top five easy plastic swaps

Over this past year, single use plastic has been even more of a feature of our every day lives. As the country starts to re-emerge from lockdown restrictions, here are our five quickest, easiest and cheapest ways to reduce the amount of single use plastic you use when you’re out and about:  

1. A reusable cup

Available pretty much everywhere, reusable cups for your on the go coffees and teas are a quick, easy and relatively cheap way to reduce your single use plastic. If you think about the coffee you grab on the way to work or after the school run and then one as a treat in the afternoon, you’re quickly looking at 40 cups a month that just sit in landfill.

And with many cafes offering discounts for bringing your own cup, you could quickly save enough to pay for the reusable cup!

2. A water bottle

This doesn’t have to be a swanky rose gold metal drinks bottle – it could just be the take out water bottle you bought the other day refilled again and again. With many places offering to fill water bottles with tap water for free (once restrictions have lifted they will be able to do this again), you could again save yourself a load of money as well as saving the planet.

3.  A shopping bag

Many of us do this already – certainly since the charge for bags came in, but making sure we always have one to hand when we head out will mean those last minute impulse buys will not involve single use plastic. 

4. A couple of old bread bags

If you have a few small bags tucked away, you will be surprised how often you use them – your breakfast croissant from the café or supermarket doesn’t need to go into a single use plastic (or paper) bag. Or grabbing some fruit and veg from the market stall as you go past – use these. You can use small cloth bags that are readily available but a few old plastic bread bags will do the trick just as well – reusing what you have is always a win!

5. Snacks from home

If you have kids, you’ll know that as soon as you step out the door, you’ll be hounded for snack, after snack, after snack. The costs can add up and so can the litter. Trying filling a tupperware with a few biscuits or homemade popcorn before you go – this will be so much better than single serving packs.

If you can remember one, two or even all five of the above each time you head out, you will be making a massive difference to the amount of single use plastic we get through.


Humans can’t use bins

“Humans can’t use bins. You can have a million bins and they will still put rubbish next to the bin or just leave it. You can train a monkey to use a bin. You can train a bird to use a bin. But you can’t train humans to use a bin. The annoyance, the laziness, the fact that someone else will do it. And the fact that they just do not care,” so laments local legend and Stamford super fan, Neil McIvor at our recent catch up.

Neil is the founder of Pride of Stamford litter pickers. Instantly recognisable in his bright orange ex-RAC van, he and his team of volunteer litter pickers work tirelessly with local council workers to keep our town rubbish free.

“Half a century in the great outdoors has done nothing to degrade this piece of plastic”

He arrives for our chat in his trademark orange hoody, brandishing a favourite find in his hand – his trophy he calls it. It’s a plastic bottle he has had dated back to the late 60s. Dug up on one of his many litter picks, it looks good as new, bar a bit of mud. Half a century in the great outdoors has done nothing to degrade this piece of plastic – a powerful and depressing reminder of the longevity of single use plastic.

So if bins aren’t the answer to our litter problems, what is? Well, when it comes to plastic bottles, he has a plan. “We need a proper recycling scheme,” he explains. “We need to give 20p on every bottle to make it worthwhile for people to take it back. People would walk the streets taking them back too. Every plastic bottle. 20 pence. Not 5p. Not 10p. Not 7.5p. 20p.” It seems simple enough – they do it across Europe after all, but for some reason the UK government is loathed to do it. For now at least, in our local area we have to rely on the Pride of Stamford team. And with lockdown restrictions being lifted today, we’ll need them now more than ever, if Neil’s experience is anything to go by.

“There’s going to be a Tsunami of litter”

“When lockdown finishes, there’s going to be a tsunami of litter. It’s going to be insane,” Neil says. “We’ve got a perfect storm coming. With pubs not being open, beer gardens are open and you’ve got limited capacity with people still wanting to go out and drink. Last time, you had adults, children and teenagers all milling around on the meadows. The older ones had their plastic cups from the pub that they would just toss away – they’d had a few drinks and didn’t care. The kids would see the older generations leaving their rubbish and they would do the same. They would all just get up and walk away, make no effort to clean up.”

“People have been locked up. I understand that. They are going to want to let their hair down. I understand that completely. But it can be done responsibly. Put your rubbish in the bag you bought your stuff in. Put it in the bin. And if the bin is full, just tie the handle up and leave it by the bin, recycling your bag for your rubbish.”

This certainly seems like something we could all do when we’re next out for that oh so precious socially distanced drink with friends. And to put quantities into context, there have been days when, for example Neil, his team and council workers have collected 80 – 90 bags of rubbish from the meadows, rec and skate park alone. Yes, 90 bags of rubbish left on a single day. We can do better.

There’s no doubt that lockdown has brought its own challenges when it comes to single use plastic. Obviously the use of throw away masks and gloves have sky rocketed but it’s take away coffee cups that get the most air time from Neil.

“The litter pickers at Burghley have seen coffee cups go through the roof”

“Coffee cups – I’m afraid with the coffee shops shut, you’ve got the wanderers, the jugglers who go off to Burghley and the litter pickers at Burghley have seen coffee cups go through the roof. It’s insane. The plastic cap just never degrades and the cup just turns into a plastic mush that never degrades,” Neil explains.

But the problems don’t stop there. These coffee cups fill our bins to overflowing, taking up precious bin space and giving people yet another excuse to simply toss unwanted plastic on the floor. Crushing the cup and taking the caps off any empty plastic bottles you have before you put them in the bin is a simple way we can all help make a contribution to keeping our town clean.

Neil does then concede that it is not all doom and gloom. Thank goodness. With lockdown restrictions people have been getting out and walking more and as a result are seeing the litter problem first hand. Neil has been inundated with messages from people wanting to get involved, wanting to help make a difference, which is a huge step in the right direction.

One surprising benefit of lockdown has been the number of youngsters getting involved as part of the Duke of Edinburgh scheme. With few other community-based projects available, many D of E-ers have turned to Neil and have enjoyed it so much, they’ve got their friends to join too. Neil also runs Mini Ninjas, taking youngsters to the rec to litter pick – he bills it a treasure hunt and they have a brilliant time. A new generation of Pride of Stamford litter pickers are taking up the reigns – long may it continue.

If you’d like to get involved with Pride of Stamford, they organise litter picks on the last Sunday of every month. Check out their Facebook page for more details.

Next time we’ll hear more from Neil about local litter hotspots and his latest venture to combat problem areas, Team Stamford.