I was lucky enough to go abroad twice this summer. I went to a friend’s wedding in Portugal and for a month to Berlin for work. Both places reminded me how far Ireland has to go for zerowaste to be even a possibility. Fruit and Veg and even toiletries I have managed to find zerowaste because of my location in Dublin but flour, grains etc are impossible to find without packaging. The closest I’ve come is oats and granola in the TempleBar market (totally yummy).
In Portugal we went to this giant supermarket which seemed incredibly normal as supermarkets go. But then I came across an aisle of grains, nuts and cereals all zero packaging. All you had to do is fill up a jar from the cylinder. My jealousy raged. I had assumed that large chain supermarkets just wouldn’t entertain this idea but here it was, a megastore with chains all around Portugal selling loose grains. I can’t imagine the Irish supermarkets caring enough to supply this service. How do we make that happen?
Then Berlin broke my little Irish heart. If it weren’t for circumstances which keep me in Ireland I would move to Berlin in a second. I rented a place in Kreuzberg near the Original Unverpackt which I had heard about. It was heavenly. They have EVERYTHING. They had all types of cooking oils, and flour and sugar and grains and lots more even gin, vodka and wine! All zero waste. I brought zerowaste toothpaste tablets in a jar back to Ireland and I purchased their cotton produce bags for things like loose lettuce leaves and mushrooms from the market in Dublin. My regular vegetable supply lady loved them.
Even the regular shops in Berlin however were easier to shop zerowaste in. I would say they still give out plastic bags too quickly though compared to Ireland. I learned to say no bag please in German fairly quickly. Germany is much more glass centred than Ireland or England however. I was able to buy yogurt in glass jars which is impossible to find here. Almost all water, beer, and sodas in shops and cafes come in glass bottles rather than plastic ones and there is a cash deposit of, I think, 25c on the bottles when returned. The street bins are well equipped for separating glass, food waste, non-recyclable waste, paper and plastic. There are boxes attached to lampposts for glass bottles to be left and homeless people usually pick them up to collect the cash deposit. It’s not ideal to have so many homeless people but at least your glass bottles can help those in need as well as the environment.There is no evidence of more broken glass on the streets compared with home either. It really makes me sad that the glass bottle factory was closed in Dublin in 2002. How do we reverse this? How do encourage Ireland to go back to glass soda and water bottles?