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.