No cardboard, no cellophane, no throwaway plastic trays, and no brands: Berlin’s newest supermarket is certainly a step away from the usual neighborhood grocery store. Opened last Saturday, Original Unverpackt (the name translates to “Original Unpackaged”) is a novel shop in Berlin’s Kreuzberg neighborhood that has dispensed entirely with disposable packaging. Granted, the term “supermarket” might be a little grandiose for this small but tightly packed store, but the concept’s legs are as long as the store’s frontage is narrow. Not only is a minimum-waste grocery store a canny business idea in a country that’s packed with green-conscious consumers, it’s also an interesting pilot project relevant to any city trying to cut their landfill and recycling burden.
The idea works like this: All of Original Unverpackt’s dry goods—rice, cereal, spices—are stored in large dispenser bins, and customers fill containers they have either brought with them or purchased in the store. Liquid goods such as juice or yogurt are sold in jars or bottles with a deposit on them (already an all-but-mandatory system in Germany anyway). There is no minimum limit on how much customers buy, and to ensure that they get a fair deal, the containers that customers bring are weighed and marked accordingly when they enter the shop. Around 80 percent of the store’s products are organic, and while the origin of each product is listed next to the price per kilo, no brand-name products are sold.