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5 questions for understanding ‘zero waste’

5 questions for understanding ‘zero waste’

Épicerie Colibri, Pont-à-Celles

‘It’s a movement which convinced me very quickly. I randomly came across the book ‘La famille presque zéro déchet’ [The Almost Zero Waste Family] during my holiday. I then looked for unpackaged food to apply what I had read. I didn’t find it in my area so I decided to set up my own zero waste shop. All in less than 1 year.’

Valérie set up her grocery store le Colibri in June 2018 in Pont-à-Celles. We asked her 5 questions about ‘zero waste’.

légumes-fruits-vrac-local-bio
Loose fruit and vegetables are really popular in the grocery store

A ‘zero waste’ shop, it’s just fruit and vegetables, isn’t it?

Le Colibri is a grocery store with a ‘zero waste’ objective. I sell all sorts of products that are loose or with little packaging: fruit and vegetables, obviously, and a lot of other products, such as pasta, sweets, cereals, biscuits, chocolate, shampoo, laundry products, etc.

Customers come with their boxes, we weigh the container and they help themselves. Often, they are a bit unsettled by the fact they have to serve themselves. On the other hand, a lot of children enjoy it.

We find all sorts of things: local vegetables, fresh fruit, cereals, etc.

epicerie-dechets-silos-vrac
A grocery store with a ‘zero waste’ objective equipped with silos and shelves

Some people say that it’s more expensive to buy loose products, is that true?

No, not necessarily. Of course, customers don’t pay for packaging and limit the amount of waste.

What defeats a lot of customers is estimating the weight in relation to the price. When there is a per kilo price, they find it difficult to estimate the quantity of the product.

Chocolat-bonbon-vegan-bio
Organic and vegan chocolate and sweets are available to buy loose

But who comes here, ‘hippies’?

Another cliché. The shop attracts all types of people: people convinced by the ‘zero waste’ movement, others who are interested in organic or local produce, and local residents who consider us to be ‘the corner shop’. In addition to the ‘zero waste’ logic, there is the product’s quality and its production method.

Therefore, I didn’t really have a fixed type of person in mind. Women are a small majority, they are generally the ones who do the shopping, but that’s still quite basic.

epicerie-recuperation-vrac
Recovered pallets decorate the shop

A ‘zero waste’ shop, does it really work or is it just a fashionable concept?

I have been open for several months and the shop is starting to make itself known. People in the region are gradually finding the place. So far, I’m happy. From a financial point of view, I set myself a deadline of 2 years to break even.

Setting up the place and the stock represent a significantly high cost for a traditional business, especially in terms of shelves which have to be certain ones.

The shop is already really popular with the residents of Pont-à-Celles

Here, everything arrives in bulk, loose. So you have to be able to store the products and put them on the shelves. For example, the silos for pasta, dried fruit, cereals… are more than 100 euros per unit. There are more than 30 of them. Fortunately, thanks to the crowdfunding campaign that I launched at the start of the year, I was able to gather 5,000 euros to kit myself out correctly.

vente-vrac-pates-céréales
All the food is available loose: pasta, cereals, dried fruit…

Does the shop respect the ‘zero waste’ principle, if you consider all of the deliveries, for example?

The majority of the products arrive here in reusable bins or bins that are part of a deposit scheme. Some things are delivered in cardboard. A minority are delivered in plastic (primarily the cereals which are vulnerable to humidity), but it’s quite limited.

In terms of my personal organisation, I have to adapt a bit. The shop occupies a lot of my time and, for example, I have less time for cooking with my children. So I reassure myself: it’s pointless to go further, I have everything that I need here.

Contact :
Le Colibri
Rue du Vieux Château 8a
6230 Pont-à-Celles
+32 (0)71 48 86 69
le-colibri.be

©Pictures/Alex Dossogne