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Where to go plastic-free shopping in South Africa

It’s 15 years since Subaru’s production plant in Indiana, USA last took out the trash. The reason? Everything at the plant gets recycled.

Where to go plastic-free shopping in South Africa

At this manufacturing plant, left-over food becomes compost and items that are notoriously difficult to recycle, like coffee capsules, are handled through a partnertship with US recycling pioneers TerraCycle. (Subaru owners can also take their ‘problem items’ to any one of 592 Subaru dealers in the US.)

While recycling is important, the ideal is to eliminate plastic packaging as close to the source as possible.

South African businesses are working on reducing the use of plastics. Numerous restaurants have banned plastic straws in favour of biodegradable ones and are using takeaway containers made from bio-plastics. Some supermarkets chains incentivise customers to purchase reusable shopping bags.

And the old-school grocery store is making a comeback, with a modern no-waste twist – packaging-free food stores, where grocery shopping is reimagined and products are sold in bulk dispensers. All you do is fill a container brought from home – or a jar or brown-paper bag bought in the shop – then weigh and pay.

We checked out three local zero-waste stores.

The Refillery

Run by husband and wife team Dom and Sam Moleta, The Refillery is stocked with staples from brown sugar and loose-leaf teas to baking powder and conditioner. The store boasts new-age Tupperware parties and a fantastic range of zero-waste lifestyle products – including a car bin made from recycled billboards, and a reusable, collapsable straw called a Shlurple.

Dom and Sam hope to get more involved in community clean-ups and education around single-use plastics, and more stores are in the pipeline for Johannesburg and Pretoria before launching in the rest of the country.

Available online nationwide, The Refillery boasts home delivery, refilling, and a call and collect facility with free delivery for all orders over R500.

Cedar Square, cnr Willow and Cedar Road, Shop U3.11, Johannesburg
011 465 4426

Shop Zero

Inspired by Bea Johnson, the mother of the zero-waste movement, Janneke Blake knew she had to bring the concept to Cape Town. From humble market beginnings, this crowd-funded store has just opened its very own café with a mug library where ceramic mugs can be donated or borrowed and returned next time you’re in the shop. One of the most popular products at Shop Zero is sulfate-free shampoo bars.

Janneke admits that the zero in zero waste can be overwhelming. “Every small step each of us takes is accumulative and part of the solution,” she says. “Living your truth might be uncomfortable at first, and people might crack a couple of jokes.” Once on a flight, to avoid the single-use plastic cup, she handed a reusable cup to the hostess for wine. The gentleman behind her laughed at the size of the cup, but it prompted a conversation that inspired someone else to become curious about a plastic-free lifestyle.

403 Albert Rd, Woodstock, Cape Town
084 201 5652 or 076 833 6268

House of Bravo

‘Freshness’ is the operative word at House of Bravo, with locally sourced fresh produce, farm-fresh milk, free-range eggs, premium grains, raw honey and freshly roasted coffee all under one roof.

Raised in eSwatini with an abundance of fresh produce all around, a traditional way of life apeals to owner Leanné Hendricks. “My aim is to create an environment where people interact daily,” she says.

Workshops on topics like zero waste, creating a sustainable lifestyle, and her other passion – ceramics – are in the pipeline. “Basic skills development and community are two very important factors that we need to rethink and reintroduce into our lives, and I hope that House of Bravo will act as a platform for this,” says Leanné.

Working on an exchange system, House of Bravo sells fresh milk in 1-litre glass bottles, with the prospect of delivering milk right to doorsteps soon.

Shop 1, Florida Fields, 295 Florida Road, Durban
083 642 6555