How one shop in Cumbria is ‘cutting the wrap’ to reduce waste

Paul and Cat Moffat run Cut the Wrap, a zero-waste shop in Ulverston, Cumbria. The shop is still to have its first birthday but has already been nominated for ethical business of the year award by the Federation of Small Businesses. They spoke to Environment Journal about weening the public off large supermarkets and why sourcing locally might be easier than you think.

What has been the reaction from the local community in Ulverston to the shop?

The shop has been so well received- there was a queue to get in on our opening day! People are genuinely surprised at how inexpensive buying just the amount of goods they require can be. We have had people thank us for opening, plastic reduction is at the forefront of so many people’s thoughts and, quite rightly, featuring heavily in the media currently.

How do you encourage the public to support shops that use a sustainable food chain when it is often more expensive to shop there?

We are providing a shopping experience that fulfils so much more for the ethical consumer than just price and our slogan is ‘Save the planet, Save your pocket’.

We often create window displays based around the ‘true’ cost of a product- in terms of the environmental damage, the human cost and the health aspect, suggesting a zero waste alternative- our freshly ground NOTella choc-hazelnut spread being a prime example. Wider environmental considerations are as important for ethical consumers as plastic packaging reduction alone.

Would you favour a plastic tax?

I think that our Government could do a lot more in terms of holding corporations to account for their packaging choices. A plastic tax would be an option but I think that other countries worldwide have taken a much stricter stance, with corporations in Kenya facing prison time for importing and using single-use plastic packaging!

Paul, you have worked in one of the large supermarket chains, what examples of unnecessary waste did you see during your time there?

Alongside the packaging which the customer takes home, there is a hidden amount of packaging waste, where often products are shrink-wrapped in plastic on trays of a dozen or so, then shrink-wrapped again on a delivery pallet!

The amount of excessive packaging on fresh goods and meat is also frustrating. There has been a marked improvement over the last year with more stores encouraging customers to bring their own containers and more loose fruit and veg options but I still think there is a long way to go.

Cat and Paul Moffat

Are the large supermarkets doing enough to reduce plastic?

Large supermarkets are doing a good job in reducing what they can, the real issue is the companies supplying the supermarkets and brand packaging. It is in large corporations interests to have packaging which displays their product well, advertises their brand and is appealing to customers- finding a single-use plastic alternative to this is the key.

What products would you like to sell in the shop in the future?

We would love to be able to offer a fresh counter, deli goods, fresh milk on tap and fruit and veg too.

What is the most difficult thing about running a plastic-free shop?

One of the most frustrating things about running a zero-waste shop is when wholesalers send goods in non-recyclable packaging. We learned very quickly after we opened to ask if the goods will be sent in an environmentally responsible way.

As ambassadors for the Start Up Loans Company, what advice do you give fellow small business owners as they look to reduce their carbon footprint?

Source locally, where possible. We have been astounded by the number of great products right on our doorstep- we have bread, soap, solid shampoo, beeswax wraps, bamboo straws, honey, sandwich wraps, produce bags and more all sourced locally, rather than from a supplier where they are shipped across the world before arriving with the consumer.

Looking at energy supplier is also a good option- there are some great green energy suppliers out there, who often have incentives for referring customers, make friends with your fellow small business owners- we’re all in this together.

In July, Environment Journal interviewed Reuben Chesters of Locavore, Scotland’s first social enterprise supermarket.

Thomas Barrett

Thomas Barrett

Journalist. Follow him on Twitter

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