“It’s midday on a sunny day in Chorley town centre; market day,” she says. “The streets bustle with locals chatting to traders while visitors scope out the fresh products and independent retailers on offer.
“Yet, while it’s easy to pick up some fresh, ripe tomatoes or a half a dozen lamb chops wrapped up in the trader’s swiftly-folded paper package, the option to scoop up some rice or pasta for dinner [has] to wait until a further trip to a supermarket chain,” she adds. “Surprising for a historic market town? Absolutely.”
Steph is out to do something about that through Reed’s Refillery, the town’s newest zero-waste shop out to make plastic-free shopping not only possible but easy, appealing, and convenient.
Given people’s growing awareness of the climate crisis which is already touching countless people’s lives across the globe, the situation consumers are placed in where they are confronted with a dizzying array of products wrapped in petrochemical-based products such as plastic is, frankly, unacceptable. Such products do nothing but inflame an already-alarming situation.
Not only is such packaging not recyclable, but certain products aren’t available to purchase by any other means, leaving even the most eco-conscious customer in something of a bind when faced with shelves and shelves teeming with single-use plastic wrapping. But it wasn’t always like this, even in Chorley.
Back in the ‘80s, the former Dawn Wholefoods would allow shoppers armed with jam jars and tins to scoop up lentils, beans, and an assortment of other household items when stocks in the pantry ran low. The rise of all-consuming supermarket chains, however, coupled with their reliance on cheap packaging has led to the sad closure of such establishments.
But things are changing. “Talking to Chorley residents about the shop proposal has been even more positive than I had imagined,” explains Steph, with the idea having already received an enthusiastic thumbs-up from Chorley MP and Speaker Of The House Sir Lindsay Hoyle. “The desire to have a zero-waste shopping option in the town centre is very strong amongst the community.”
Retailers currently put 900,000 tonnes of plastic packaging and 2 billion on to the market every year, leading to more than half of Brits to insist that large chain stores haven’t done enough to curb the amount of plastic on their shelves. Hoping to open this winter, Reed’s Refillery is out to give the town the option of a more sustainable shopping experience.
Encapsulating Steph’s eco-friendly, plastic-reducing mission, the shop will be zero-waste and single-use plastic free. It will be run for locals, by a local and will help people cut out plastic-use when buying items such as food, toiletries, and cleaning products by using state-of-the-art dispensary equipment which keep stocks fresh and hygienic whilst being easy to use.
The shop will also stock eco-friendly alternatives to everyday items and offer refills on a range of household liquids to those who bring their own containers. But such an ambitious and positive project doesn’t come cheap, and so - alongside her own financial input, Stephanie is looking for the support of the community via crowdfunding to get the venture going.
“Of course, I’d love to make the shop happen entirely through my own means,” explains Stephanie. “I’ve said to my husband for years that, if I ever won the lottery, that’s what I would do - open a zero-waste shop.
“But, if everyone is in this position - starting from scratch, battling against retail giants and a challenging high street - there’d be little opportunity for locals to really reduce their plastic use more conveniently,” she adds. “And there’d be little opportunity for local people to have an actual input into what they would like the shop to stock.”
It’s an opportunity Chorley can’t afford to miss.
To help contribute to the Reed's Refillery target of £5,000, head to their JustGiving page at www.gofundme.com/f/bring-zero-waste-shopping-to-chorley