(Almost) Plastic-free Plymouth Guide
This is a summary of the different places (I know) where you (as a citizen) can start REDUCING the amount of plastic that you consume on a daily basis and aim for a zerowaste approach to your grocery shopping habits.
I have been living in Plymouth for over a year now. I came here to study an MA in Education with focus on Learning for Sustainability, and I have had the opportunity to attend some of the activities organised by the Plymouth Council, Environment Plymouth and the Sustainable Earth Institute.
There is a real interest in making Plymouth a more sustainable place to live, to diminish the plastic waste that enters into the Sea and to make Plymouth a carbon-neutral city. However, to achieve these and other goals it is important that all stakeholders get involved, which is why I am writing this article.
Note: I will be updating this article every now and then to add new places I find where you can buy (almost) plastic-free in Plymouth. If you have any suggestions please share them with me and other readers below!
Most of the titles have links to the websites and/or the address of the places I mention below
The first thing I wanted to find out when I moved to Plymouth was where to find fruits and vegetables that were local and where I could buy whatever amount I wanted. It took me a while because there were many people that suggested me to attend Royal William Yard Good Food Market that is held on the first Sunday of every month, but, this was never going to work for me if I wanted to buy regularly in a local farmers market.
Note: I must say that I have never been to the Royal William Yard Good Food Market, but I have heard great things. If you have been there let me know in the comments below!
One day I stumbled upon the Plymouth Farmers Market in the city centre. Below I will share the gems I found. In the past year, I have had the opportunity to build a relationship with the people that work in the market and I have been able to buy my groceries (almost) plastic-free and zerowaste.
Here you will find beautiful produce, some of them grown by the owner (Steve), who will tell you how he cares for his vegetables and what is the best seasonal thing to eat. In his store, he sells honey, from a local and small producer, in returnable jars. Also, if you buy eggs you can return him the eggs’ carton next time you are in the store, and he will reuse it once again. He is always keen to put everything on your reusable bags and he has brown paper bags in case you need them.
Joe has an upbeat personality, he is always smiling and happy to help. He has a great variety of fruits and vegetables, many of them grown locally in Devon and Cornwall, and great price for value. You can choose how much you will buy and he is more than happy to put everything in your tote bag. If you want grapes and do not want that plastic box, take your own container and just let him know ;). He also has a delivery service available (I have never used it, so I don’t know how it is in terms of plastic). And if by any chance you have Healthy Start Food vouchers he accepts this in his stall!
Since plant-based food is on the rise to counterbalance the effects of eating mass-produced meat (i.e. carbon emissions) and this requires to shift our diet and include more nuts and seeds I think it is appropriate to mention this lovely stall. Part of the description of the stall says “…and to make your treat even healthier for the planet as well as you, bring in your own containers for zero packaging impact!” Which aligns with the aim of this (almost) plastic-free guide. I have bought cashews, almonds, salty corn (my fave!), chia seeds and other yummy treats, all in my own containers!
Note: These previous three are mandatory stops when I do my grocery shopping, however, there are other stalls within the market that are worth visiting and since everyone is incredibly nice I am sure you could bring your own container and avoid single-use plastic. I will mention the other ones below. But, to be honest, I have bought in some of these places only once or twice and I was not prepared with containers for those items (keeping it real with you!).
Local Meat, Cheese and Fish
There are other wonderful things to explore where you can eat yummy food or learn a new craft, but, that’s for another post.
Outside the market
Walking around the city led me to find amazing and unexpected little shops, so here are some examples beyond the Farmers Market.
This place is right outside the Plymouth Farmers Market and it is the cutest little shop with hundreds of Teas and Coffee Beans from all over the world. The owner has blends he has created that smell and taste divine. If you bring your own container he is more than happy to weigh it for you and fill it with whatever flavour you fancy. Also, he has a great variety of cups, jars, etc…that you can buy to brew your drink at home. The only thing is that if you don’t bring your own container, he will have to use plastic to wrap it up for you. Learnt that lesson the hard way!
This is an amazing store and I am sure it is well known by most people that live in Plymouth. It is at 155 Armada Way. Here you can buy many things without plastic like soap bars, shampoo bars, bambú toothbrushes, toothpaste in glass jars, handmade deodorants in glass jars, and many more things. However, the most incredible thing for me is the fact that you can bring your containers to refill your Washing up Liquid, Laundry liquid, Softener, Shampoo and Conditioner (talk about reducing plastic waste!). They work with brands that are ethical, cruelty-free, vegan/vegetarian and they have an amazing range of products made in the UK. Lovely customer service and they sell some yummy treats ;).
– Unit 47 at Drake Circus Shopping Centre –
Lush is one of the big shops, they sell colourful soaps, shampoo bars, toothpowder, make-up, etc. You can buy many of their products in your own container and some other things in tubs that are made from recycled plastic that you can return once you use the product.
I would say the best way to find (almost) plastic-free shops where you can buy in bulk or zerowaste are those you discover when walking everywhere. That’s what happened to me when walking around Mount Edgcumbe. I found a series of lovely little artisan shops and I fell in love with them. This one, in particular, sells amazing upcycled stuff like jewellery, clothes, and also soap bars, candles and other beautiful handmade and eco-friendly range of products. I encourage you to visit it and if you can buy their honey, do it, they use part of their profits to support an endangered species of bees they are trying to protect.
Fruit and Veg (International)
There are also other shops, less known by many of Plymouth residents, but more known by international students or citizens from outside the UK (Like me!). In these international shops, you can find those key fruits and veg you might need if you are cooking a Caribbean, Polish or Asian dish (to name a few).
- Costless World Wide Food Store – 18 Western Approach, Plymouth PL1 1TQ (Close to the Farmers Market)
- Asia Oriental Store – 98-100 Cornwall St, Plymouth PL1 1NF (Close to the Farmers Market)
- International Food Centre – 15 Beaumont Rd, Plymouth PL4 9BA
Note: I will always suggest you go and try to eat local, it is more sustainable, but, in case you are taking risks in your kitchen these are some options you could consider. Always remember to tell the cashier you brought your own bag!
Local and Online Produce
I discovered these shop a long time ago, back when a friend suggested me to start eating quinoa. When researching about this “superfood” I realised the worldwide demand was causing (as always) issues in terms of sustainability (i.e. unfair salaries for the farmers across the globe and carbon emissions due to countries exporting it). And then….I found Hodmedod’s! A small independent business that sources and supplies beans and other products from British farms. I was even more impressed by the fact they use cellophane and brown paper, instead of plastic, for most of their products. Their products are a great price for value and you can learn so much about what kind of interesting grains, seeds and pulses grow in the UK throughout the seasons.
Note: I still don’t know much about cellophane’s environmental impact, I just know that, unlike plastic, it is biodegradable. But, I will read more and let you know!
I am sure you know about Riverford, I really like their produce (lovely seasonal, organic and yummy veg, fruit and other stuff, mostly local) and their ethos. But, I know is not for everyone, I for one can’t afford it right now. However, I am suggesting it since if you can afford it and you are a super busy person, this might be an option for you. I must warn you that although they are doing their best in reducing the amount of plastic they use, the safest bet is for you to buy one of the seasonal boxes, most of the things come loose and they reuse the box over and over again.
A friendly reminder on how to buy (almost) plastic-free, zerowaste and low impact
This is not an exhaustive list like I said at the beginning, I will be updating it. I also must remind you that buying plastic-free, zerowaste and with the aim of minimising our impact on the environment is an ever-going process. It is about questioning ourselves, talking to people that are selling us goods about the possibility of putting these goods in our own containers or at least in a less harmful packaging and working together with our communities. The issues we are facing are complex, and we need to keep reading, learning and working together to tackle them.
Sometimes I can’t buy plastic-free and that’s ok
Also, don’t feel discouraged if all you can do right now is buy at the big chain superstores where everything is packed in plastic. I do it too, especially when my budget is super tight / my free time is minimal / or both (I could write a post on how to minimise the waste when buying at these stores, let me know in the comments if this is something you want). I made this list to help you out, to make it a tiny bit easier for you and everyone that wants to tackle this issue, but, the problems we are facing are interconnected and there might be other barriers that prevent you from buying in a more sustainable way.
So let me know in the comments below about other places you know, here in Plymouth, where you can buy (almost) plastic-free, zerowaste or low impact. Tell me about your own barriers or maybe share what you are doing to reduce plastic and waste. Also, if you live in another city you can let me know where you buy plastic-free, and maybe if I ever visit one of those cities I will know where to buy my groceries.
Sending you good vibes!