Version 3.2_September 2016

Individual Paper: Unpackaged: factors that drive consumers to package-free retail

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Sustainable food systems signal a need to return to local, organic and low footprint food provisions, implying also reduction of waste and packaging.

Rather than looking at the waste issue from the post-consumption perspective (approaches that have dominated over the recent decades), this paper attempts to shed more light on the prevention of consumer packaging waste through unpackaged shopping at the package-free retail that has been on the rise in Europe since 2007, gaining a particular momentum over the last two years.

Despite the relative scale and size of these specialty stores, package-free retail can play a role in challenging the wastefulness of the current food system from the bottom-up, rather than solely relying on actions of governments. Besides their focus on eliminating fast-disposable consumers’ wrapping, founders of these stores believe they can challenge also suppliers packaging practices, tackle food waste and overconsumption, promote local food production, and reverse the organic food trend associated with elevated prices. Grassroots innovations are "community-led solutions for sustainability" (Grassroots Innovations, n.d.). However, a strong customer base is crucial to ensure the commercial viability of these emergent businesses that have the potential to present a challenge to, amongst other things, consumer convenience.

This paper is based on an exploratory study of a recently established packaged-free store in Prague. It uncovers factors that drive consumers to this retail concept, highlighting that while shoppers appreciate not creating waste, this might not be the primary driver for frequenting a package-free store.


Day: 2016-09-01
Start time: 11:30
Duration: 00:15
Room: 393
Track: Environmentally sound economies