Ee Lin: an inspiring visit to Unpackt

Singapore’s first zero-waste grocery store Unpackt opened recently on 5 May 2018 in Jalan Kuras. The store’s goods are sold without any packaging and customers are encouraged to bring their own containers.

Ee Lin from our conservation team checked out Unpackt last weekend and even chatted with the co-founders. She shares her experience.

When I first read about Unpackt, I thought it was a good idea because people are increasingly aware of the excessive packaging that comes with most products.

I was interested to see how a packaging-free store looks like. But more importantly, I wanted to seek out potential field trips for RWS’s Blue Committee (which I’m a member of) as well as for Guardians of the S.E.A.A.. Visiting places like Unpackt makes for a meaningful excursion where participants can learn more about 3R initiatives.

A simple and unassuming exterior.

The 1,200 sq ft space was similar to what I had seen in the news since they’re still pretty new. It was really tidy and clean.

This is where anyone can donate plastic containers for others to store their purchases.
Dry food items like pasta and cereal are dispensed in self-serve gravity bins to reduce food waste and single-use packaging.

Florence and Jeff said that they try to make Unpackt relevant to the community by selling daily necessities like cutlery, toothbrush, pasta, oil, and detergent. Their concept is similar to that of traditional provision shops where products are displayed in bulk containers and can be purchased in any desired quantity.

They also mentioned that they can help companies put together a packaging-free pantry. I think this is a great idea as opposed to purchasing pre-packed snacks from regular shops and supermarkets.

The co-founders told me that they will be bringing in more items in the near future.
Eco-friendly enzyme-based detergents, honey and vinegar are stored in these dispensers. Florence and Jeff also said that they clean their containers weekly for hygiene purposes.
One of the more interesting items I saw was this tooth powder which functions like a toothpaste. Just dip your toothbrush into the powder and you can start brushing your teeth.
I got myself a bamboo toothbrush and some biscuits.

Florence and Jeff also hope to spread the message that packaging-free products are not only good for the environment but for our wallets as well. For instance, my jar of biscuits (above) costs less than $2, much cheaper than what some of my colleagues and family thought.

It seems that others too have a similar experience, including local eco warrior Pamela Low who’s behind Tingkat Heroes Singapore. In one of her recent posts, she mentioned that she paid $0.46 for 46g of cinnamon sticks at Unpackt whereas a local online grocer charges $8.90 for just 21g.

Image credit: Pamela Low. Source

My afterthoughts

It is exciting to see people come up with new initiatives such as Unpackt. But sustaining it with consumer support is equally important. Despite a growing interest in eco-consumerism, I feel that Singapore has not matured to the stage where the majority of the population is actively seeking out packaging-free options.

That’s why I was really happy to see quite a few families shopping at Unpackt when I was there. Some came in with containers to buy biscuits while others were curious about what was being sold. To me, that is a small but positive sign that there are people out there exposing and educating the future of Singapore about waste prevention and reduction.

Me (center) with Florence and Jeff, the co-founders of Unpackt.

I really enjoyed my visit to Unpackt. Florence and Jeff were friendly and open to conversations regarding zerowaste efforts both in Singapore and overseas. Florence even gave me some tips on maintaining an eco-enzyme solution that l am currently trying to make!

Unpackt is located at 6 Jalan Kuras and they open daily from 9am – 8pm.
Follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

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