Human Wrongs Watch 10 July 2018 (UN Environment)* — “When I take my little girl to the store, I always tell her buy what you need, not what you want! I must be the only shopkeeper who tells customers not to buy more!” This in a nutshell sums up Florence Tay’s passion. Her easy, friendly manner welcomes one into her store “Unpackt”, located in the heart of Singapore’s suburban neighbourhood Ang Mo Kio.
Unpackt is the city-state’s first zero-waste grocery and lifestyle concept store. With a 5.6 million population, Singapore’s consumption trajectory is only set to grow exponentially.
But the challenge that remains is how to ensure that consumption is sustainable.
In 2017, Singapore generated about 7.8 million tons of waste. 820 thousand tonnes of this was made of plastic wastes. Only 6 per cent of all plastic wastes generated was ultimately recycled.
Florence notes that public interest is slowly rising when it comes to plastic pollution.
“Currently, we do have a lot of plastic waste in Singapore, but people are getting more conscious. As people get more conscious, they will slowly change their lifestyle. Zero waste alternatives are not readily accessible in Singapore, so we need to start having options for consumers who can do their shopping without polluting the Earth.”
Unpackt has been a year in the making. With a background in private sector, running businesses and engaging with charities, Florence discovered that her passion lies in helping her community. Inspired by a video she saw of a zero-waste grocery store in Europe, Florence teamed up with her business partner Jeff Lam to set up the store.
“I’m a practical person,” she says. “I realized I was throwing away things that I had paid for, but didn’t necessarily consume.” This motivated her to look into how a packaging-free, zero waste grocery concept could work in a city like Singapore.
Rows of large dispensers with grains, pulses and nuts line up one wall, that customers can help themselves to. Against the other wall are stacked large containers of organic detergents and washing up liquids made from eco-enzymes and natural products such as fruit peels, soap nuts, baking soda and vinegar.
In addition to these, Unpackt also sells reusable utensils, straws, cups, freezer bags, beeswax wraps and the like as well as eco-friendly make-up removers and menstrual cups. Florence shares that they also plan to venture into fresh vegetables and fruits in some months. . .