Don’t think refill shops are for you? Think again….

For many, the weekly shop is full of seemingly unavoidable single use plastic packaging. But with refill shops now well established in Stamford, there is a real alternative. Here, we look at five of the most common barriers to using a refill shop, in the hope it’ll encourage more folk to give them a go.  

  1. I don’t know how it all works

If you’ve not been into a refill shop, you may feel uncomfortable about not knowing what to do. So, here’s our quick and easy guide:

  • Grab some containers or bags from home to take with you (see below for what to take)
  • Hand them over to be weighed at the counter
  • Fill them up with whatever you need – or shop staff will do this for you
  • If you’re unsure of weights or only need a specific amount, just ask for some help
  • Hand your now filled containers over to be weighed
  • Pay

If you check out their social media, Stamford’s local refill shops have little videos of their store and how to refill with them.

2. I don’t know what to bring…..and kilner jars are so heavy!

Whenever you see photos of people’s refill shop purchases they’re displayed in beautiful glass kilner jars….but you  don’t have to take these to the store. Take much lighter items and decant everything when you get home. You can use small glass jam jars, but lighter things like old bread bags, cloth bags (or old pillow cases even!), yoghurt pots, ice cream tubs, take away containers all work brilliantly and are much easier to carry. And if you’ve not got anything with you, the shops all have reusable containers and paper bags for you to use for free.

3. Aren’t they just for vegetarians and vegans?!?

Whether you eat meat and dairy or not, you will find something you love at a refill shop – think of it as your go to place for your every day essentials…from dried goods like pasta and rice, baking ingredients like flour and sugar, herbs and spices and all your cleaning and bathroom products – shower gel, shampoo, conditioner – the lot. It’s not just lentils…..we promise!

4. I don’t have the time

There’s no doubt that a quick online supermarket shop is often the default when it comes to the weekly shop. The great thing with Stamford’s refill stores is that you can order online and either collect in store (they’ll weigh and package everything up for you) or have your order delivered.  But going to a refill shop is actually a really lovely experience in itself – it’s like how shopping should be and makes getting your daily essentials a real joy rather than a chore.

5. It’s more expensive

This is a common misconception. On the whole, refill shops will pitch their prices against local supermarkets – again check out their social media for some really interesting price comparisons.  And because you can buy only the amount you need – this is especially useful with herbs and spices – you reduce your waste and can actually save money.

Cakes+co: Sustainability has never looked – or tasted – so good

Cakes+co is a real gem of a place. Nestled into a corner of Stamford Walk, it may look unassuming, but step inside and you’re treated to some of the most beautiful and delicious cakes around. Not only that, Cakes+co are also flying the flag for plastic free, sustainable business practices. What’s not to love?

The cakery recently became one of Stamford’s growing number of Plastic Free Champions by removing unnecessary single use plastic from their shop and café. We caught up with them to find out a bit more about their plastic free journey. 

As owner and baker, Stewart West explains, “Going plastic free was not only important to us personally, but our business model was always going to be one that put sustainability and earth kind measures first.”

The changes have seen them minimise their need for single use plastics, now only serving drinks in glasses, cans or paper cartons and using compostable take away coffee cups and lids (made with compostable bioplastic derived from plant sugars from reclaimed sugarcane). They use paper bags and card boxes and even have their own organic growing garden for healthy, seasonal produce and edible flowers, where there is no need for any packaging at all. 

And their efforts have not gone unnoticed. “We know that our lovely customers in Stamford really appreciate and support our ethos. We have had many suggestions as well as plenty of encouragement along our plastic free journey,” explains Stewart. And this has undoubtedly given them the motivation to continue to make changes to improve the way they do things. They are now constantly reviewing the materials and produce they use, looking out for plastic free suppliers and inspiring customers to reduce, reuse and recycle as well. 

As a local Plastic Free Champion, they also have a couple of tips for other businesses looking to reduce their single use plastic. First up, do an audit of the materials and products you use and plan just one or two changes, so that the shift doesn’t seem overwhelming. It’s about being realistic and then getting into the swing of it. But importantly, they recommend telling people around you what you’re doing so that they can support you and keep you motivated. 

As ethical traders it is our duty to look to reduce the use of plastics wherever possible. Take a look at what plastics you use and see if there are alternatives, make one change, then another. Sometimes the cost of going plastic free can seem ‘expensive’ especially to small independent businesses and it is, but what’s the true price of not making the change? We have a planet to protect for now and for everyone’s future.” Stewart, we could not have put it better ourselves. 


Reimagining the way we shop for everyday essentials

This week PFS is catching up with one of our most recent Plastic Free Champions, Michelle Martell from The Eco Shop, a newly opened refill shop just outside Stamford in Great Casterton. Here you’ll find a wide range of household essentials from dry foods and snacks to cleaning products and bathroom favourites, but without having to overload on plastic.

The Eco Shop is anything but your standard local store and Michelle is working hard to make refill shopping accessible to everyone…..

Plastic Free Stamford: Can you tell us a little bit about what motivated you to focus on opening a refill shop and going plastic free? 

Michelle Martell: I noticed Stamford had no options for people to refill on products and reduce plastic waste*. My motivation was around the oceans, the pollution and waste of single use plastic, that is not necessary but significantly damages our world – polluting our oceans, land and harming wildlife.

PFS: Can you tell us a bit about what people can expect from coming to your shop?

MM: They can expect a friendly personal shopping experience, with plastic free, quality products that have not been stored in a supermarket for a long time. I stock sustainable products where possible, that are vegan, cruelty free and with no nasty chemicals.

PFS: And how do people shop with you?

MM: Customers can order online and choose a slot to visit to fulfil their orders, or message me directly to book. Since lock down has lifted, customers are now able to visit after 1pm on Tuesdays and Fridays without appointments. You simply bring your clean containers – ice cream tubs, jam jars, margarine tubs, anything you already have at home, you can bring – and I do the rest. You can even leave containers with me to sort while you get on with your day. You then pay on fulfillment and collection of the order.

PFS: What about the bulk packaging you have – can you tell us a bit more about this?

MM: Most products come in FCS approved packaging that can be recycled, or is naturally biodegradable. Some items do come in plastic, but my wholesaler will take these back and recycle. Some other products are on a closed loop system, so they reuse the containers over and over again.

PFS: Are your products more expensive than in regular supermarkets? 

MM: No, they are comparable with Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Tesco and if I can sell the products cheaper I do. My aim is to reduce plastic waste and make it affordable for all.

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

MM: People feel overwhelmed, not sure what to bring package wise or how it works. I advise people to bring plenty of containers and I will do the rest. During their first visit I explain the process and hopefully make them feel at ease about it.

PFS: What has been the most challenging thing about setting up The Eco Shop? 

MM: My location and people finding me. I use social media a lot to promote my business as people will not naturally come across me as I am not in town, so keep an eye on social for updates!

PFS: And the best thing?

MM: The support I have received from customers, my family and friends. Most importantly, my recycling bin is so much lighter now and it’s great that people are really showing an interest in reducing waste.

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


Blind corners: the litter pickers’ nemesis

Neil McIvor set up Pride of Stamford litter pickers over six years ago and it’s safe to say that in that time he’s learnt a thing or two about what makes Brits toss their rubbish. With much of the litter comprising single use plastic – water bottles, coffee cups, sandwich packs – Plastic Free Stamford caught up with him to find out more.

“Blind corners are the worst. You find the most litter on the blind corners because [drivers] know that no one can see them in either direction. They wind down their window, they’re looking in their mirror and they know no one can see them…..Boom! Out it goes.”

Neil also highlights disused and unloved areas of town – those little corners that are overgrown that we all just turn a blind eye to. They too become litter hotspots.

“Ivy for example attracts litter,” he explains. “Where do people leave their litter? They shove it in the ivy or the overgrown bushes where they think no one can see it.” And this is why Neil has his sites on clearing up these unloved spaces with his latest initiative, Team Stamford.

“Behind that grot spot is something beautiful”

Using his skills and materials from his day job along with a crack team of volunteers, Team Stamford go to the disused parts of town and derelict buildings, grot spots as Neil calls them, to tidy them up.

Most recently they cleared the verges up on North Street and planted swathes of wildflower seeds – excitingly, the shoots are just starting to show. While another project saw them clear the bank of the Welland at the cattle market car park, opposite the meadows – the photo above is the view from the bench. For over 20 years it has been left unattended and unloved. Now, with some hard graft, the team has opened up the space so that you can see the beautiful trees. They’ve also installed a hand made cherry wood bench encouraging people to sit for a moment and appreciate one of the best views of Stamford.

By clearing overgrown patches of scrub land, Team Stamford are creating new local beauty spots and if something looks pretty, people are less likely to treat it badly. They respect it more.

“The aim is to clear up grot spots. You may not see them, you may just walk past but behind that grot spot is something beautiful, something fantastic, amazing. And if you clean it up, make it look nice, people are less likely to leave their rubbish there.”

“People who didn’t litter before, will now litter”

But he believes that the pandemic has made his job far harder as it has lead to a huge rise in the number of people willing to litter.

“What we have found is that living with these more stringent rules, people who didn’t litter before, do now litter. It starts with fly tipping. People who didn’t used to fly tip will now fly tip – they wouldn’t break the rules in normal times but with all the new restrictions people have started to care less about playing by the rules and just toss things anywhere.”

That, coupled with the fact that recycling centres were harder to access, meant people were increasingly heading out to the country lanes to get rid of their rubbish. 

“And this then quickly turns to day to day littering,” explains Neil. “That plastic crisp packet – where before they might have put it in the bin, now it just goes on the floor. It’s a slippery slope.”

“People should have pride in Stamford”

But Neil does at least have rave reviews for our local council, SKDC. “If I find a fly tip, I can take a photo and send it to them, within just a few hours it’s gone. We have a really good relationship with them. Many other litter picking groups elsewhere around the country don’t have this, so we’re lucky.”

“People should have pride in Stamford. All little towns should have pride in their own areas. Everyone should have pride in their own surroundings and everyone should be responsible for their own surroundings. I want to keep the town looking beautiful, keep the punters rolling in and keep everyone happy,” Neil explains. “I love the history. I love the ambience. I love the flowers. I’ve billed myself as the Stamford caretaker. No one does the job. No one mediates between all the agencies. SKDC, town council, Stamford in bloom, Shop Stamford. I could do it.” Surely, this is a no brainer. Neil gets my vote every time.


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.

Sowden Wallis is named Stamford’s latest Plastic Free champion

Local estate agent, Sowden Wallis has become Stamford’s latest Plastic Free champion, thanks to its commitment to reduce single use plastic in the office. It is the first out of the five plastic free businesses not in the hospitality and catering sector.

The team at Sowden Wallis were given the status for their imaginative approach to reducing plastic. They have given reusable coffee cups and lunch boxes to each member of staff, they switched to a toilet paper supplier which uses no plastic packaging and they use the cleaning refill service at Silver Lane Health Food shop.

The plastic free movement fits well with the company’s ethos. Emma Sowden, director at Sowden Wallis, said “I have, over the last couple of years, been quite concerned with waste so have been quite keen about recycling. It just started to really annoy me how much wast was being thrown away.”

Aled Pattinson, co-ordinator for Plastic Free Stamford, commented that “It’s fantastic to have Sowden Wallis as a Plastic Free Champion. A business you wouldn’t normally associate with single-use plastics, it goes to show any and every business can make a difference. Emma and her team have been really creative on ways they can make their business more sustainable and cut avoidable single-use plastics and paper. They also have a collection for crisp packets to be recycled.”

Stamford needs a total of 12 businesses to commit to cutting down their plastic use so that it can meet part of the criteria to become a plastic free community. We’re almost halfway there.

If you’re interested in getting involved, please email us at

Cakes + Co joins plastic free movement

Cakes + Co joins the growing number of Stamford businesses making a commitment to reduce single use plastic. The Stamford Walk cafe and cake shop has just been named as the town’s latest Plastic Free champion.

Jade Gomila, co-owner of Cakes and Co, told the Stamford Mercury: “It’s fantastic; it’s obviously a big ethos of ours. Since getting the business last year we’ve been as sustainable as possible.”

The Yard soft play is Stamford’s third plastic free champion

Entertaining children and being plastic free are not two things that often go together, but the Yard soft play has shown how it really is possible.

The team at the Yard has replaced plastic straws with paper ones, plastic spoons with wood alternatives and little plastic post with ones made of cornstarch. Party bags without balloons and bubble wands are also in the pipeline.

Jo Henchy, who co-owns the Yard with Aimee Swift, told the Stamford Mercury:

“We’re really pleased to be involved in this campaign. We’ve been trying our best as a business to reduce our plastic waste over the last few years anyway but the Plastic Free Stamford campaign has encouraged us to do a bit more.”

“Being a business where we get a lot of families and children, it’s also about being a good role model.”

Cafe Black is first cafe to be named a plastic free champion

Cafe Black on the High Street has become Stamford’s latest plastic free champion and is the first local cafe to get behind our plastic free campaign.

The cafe has replaced plastic stirrers with sustainable wooden alternatives, swapped plastic straws for paper straws and moved to cardboard takeaway boxes and paper bags, amongst other things.

Melody Ismail, who owns the cafe with her husband Izzy, told the Stamford Mercury:

“I think it’s really important we try and cut down the amount we throw away and recycle as much as possible. It’s quite costly for us be we took the decision to recycle more and to move to plastic alternatives because we feel it’s worth it.”

“Sometimes it’s difficult to avoid using single-use plastic, like items that come from the supermarket for example, but if everyone can do their bit it will make a difference. I just think it would be great if Stamford can get behind the plastic free campaign.”

St George’s school gets behind plastic free campaign

St George’s Church of England school on Kesteven Road is leading the way amongst local schools and become the first school to sign up to our plastic free campaign.

The school now have an action group to made up of Year 6 pupils who are planning ways to make a difference in the school, including setting up a ‘Trash Mob’ to collect plastic waste. They will also write to their MP after the General Election.