Who’s going to be Toronto’s first zero-waste grocer?

If Toronto needed another reason to envy Montreal beyond chewy bagels and cheap rent, heres another: that city has just.


If Toronto needed another reason to envy Montreal beyond chewy bagels and cheap rent, heres another: that city has just scored its second zero-waste grocery store.

At Epicerie LOCO and now Mega Vrac (aka Mega Bulk), you wont find plastic baggy stations to load up on bulk grains and nuts. If you want to shop, youll have to bring your own food containers, put down a deposit on returnable Mason jars or, if you really came unprepared, use compostable paper bags. (They dont leave newbies totally high and dry).

And you wont be limited to the usual dry goods that dominate traditional bulk stores. They sell fresh produce, prepared foods, cleaners and body care products in bulk, sans disposable packaging, too. LOCO, which opened in August, is all organic and even sells locally made toothpaste in deposit-return glass jars.

A third zero-waste grocer is poised to open in Montreal any day now, but the disposables-free grocery revolution isnt just happening in Quebec. The first low-impact 100 per cent zero waste grocery store in Canada opened on British Columbias Salt Spring Island in June.

At Green, even the eggs come in reusable baskets, and if customers forget to bring their own containers from home they can buy Green Mason jars, cloth bulk sacks and mesh produce bags. Plus, all the produce is no-spray and mostly locally grown.

Green, too, has 100 per cent recycled paper bags hidden away in case of emergencies. Scarborough-raised co-owner Crystal Lehky laughs, They’re for when we see people really struggling.

Plus, any paper packaging found in store can be returned and composted at Greens in-house worm farm. That compost is donated to the local produce farmers they support in-store. Thats as closed-loop as it gets.

Another major bonus: prices at Green are on a par with run-of-the-mill stores. Lehky says she wants to make sure going zero-waste is affordable. Green is planning its own bricks-and-mortar location in Vancouver in 2017, following pop-up grocer Zero Waste Market.

But as the zero-waste grocery movement grows, Torontos Bulk Barn still wont let you refill your own jars or containers. Theyll make you line them with plastic bags first seriously. Toronto shelved its plastic bag ban in 2012.

Thankfully, weve got a healthy handful of conscientious bulk grocers like Strictly Bulk that are happy to let you refill your own containers. Strictly Bulk tells me that maybe 10 per cent of their customers already do. But they all still have plastic bags on hand for everyone else.

If you do bring your own containers, youll have to wait in line to have them weighed by a clerk before you shop. No big deal, really, but its not as efficient as the system at LOCO and Green, where weigh-your-own-container stations speed things up.

As someone whos found herself stuck more than once without refillable sacks or containers in a bulk aisle, Ill sheepishly vouch for the fact that until stores tell us disposables aint an option and offer up alternative systems, single-use bulk bags just wont die.

Update 09/22/2016: Bulk Barn’s new Toronto location in Liberty Village will be the first test location for their new reusable container initiatives. We’ll keep you updated with how it goes.

ecoholic@nowtoronto.com | @ecoholicnation

Leave your opinion for the editor...We read everything!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *