Unpackt is Singapore’s first zero-waste grocery store which opened on 5th May 2018.
I’ve been waiting so long for a store like Unpackt to open that I have been keeping plastic containers in my kitchen for the day I finally get to visit one.
Why the fuss over a zero waste grocery store?
Buying groceries in Singapore generally comes along with lots of plastics and paper packaging.
It doesn’t matter whether you shop at a convenience store, minimart, supermarket or online retailer.
Although you can technically bring your own packaging to purchase items from the wet market, many shoppers still expect their purchases to be at least packaged in plastic bags. Take that plastic bag privilege away and risk losing the customer.
It isn’t easy to push the nation towards going plastic-free. Heck we still have public campaigns against high rise littering.
I also acknowledge that there are some items which need to be packaged in order to retain its freshness and sellability, such as fragile fruits like strawberries and grapes.
But if you’re looking to reuse your own packaging for groceries beyond the wet market, Unpackt is one option you can consider.
Who should shop at Unpackt?
From my own opinion, Unpackt caters more to people who are more picky about whether their food is organic (and willing to pay), and who are open to trying unconventional types of reusable products (such as menstrual moon cups, metal straws and beeswax cloths to cover bowls).
If you’re price-sensitive like me, you can actually browse their selection and note down their prices, take a drink at the nearby hawker centre and research which items are worth purchasing.
Unpackt owners Florence Tay and Jeff Lam are very welcoming and friendly.
They will spend time sharing about the products, and even ask you for suggestions what you would like to see in future (you can write these down in a book they’ve stationed near the cashier).
Feel free to ask for samples of their dried fruits and snacks.
Their range is decent for a new store but not terribly diverse because they are testing which products are more popular, instead of bringing in A to Z and having wastage if some variants are not sellable.
After I did my own price comparison, I decided to purchase pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cocoa powder (to make my own low sugar chocolate drink), dried tomatoes and soya snack (very addictive).
For first time shoppers at Unpackt
If it’s your first time there, bring a variety of small and medium sized containers and bottles, because you may want to try small amounts of different products before coming back for the next visit to stock up on the ones you like.
Unpackt has weighing scales for you to weigh your empty containers and white permanent ink pens to write the weight on top.
There’s a table and chairs for you to weigh and pack, or rest and chat with Florence and Jeff (if they’re not busy with other customers).
After you’ve filled your containers with what you like, just pass everything to Florence or Jeff to weigh the final weight and calculate the total amount.
You can also note your estimated spend beforehand as there won’t be an itemised receipt given (at least when I went).
Payment is by cash, and Nets.
And of course, bring your own bag to takeaway your containers.
Changing our lifestyles to be more eco-conscious
Shopping at Unpackt is an experience in consciously budgeting our consumption behaviour to what we think is necessary, rather than bulk purchasing which may lead to wastage.
Even if you end up not buying anything, at least you would have envisioned what a lifestyle minimising unnecessary packaging is like, and learnt about interesting reusable products.
For one, I’ve stopped using tampons for a few years after coming across the silicone moon cup, which extends the time in between toilet visits and reduces wastage when throwing away used tampons and related packaging.
I have also used fewer pads as a result as moon cups leak less than tampons.
After spending $15 (then) upfront costs on my moon cup, I’ve saved on 36 months * 0.5 boxes of 32 tampons per period * $10 = $180.
And I’ll continue to save $60 a year on tampons alone.
Anyway, do visit Unpackt if you happen to be in the area, and also see if you can make small tweaks to your lifestyle to reduce, reuse and recycle packaging instead of immediately throwing it away.
Being eco-conscious requires small changes in our habits that may take some time to get used to, so let’s start together ok?
Unpackt updates its stock of products on its Facebook page, and you can check out its opening hours there too.
Address: 6 Jln Kuras (Sembawang Hills area)