Germany's first waste-free supermarket about to open its doors


June 3, 2014

Original Unverpackt is aiming to become Germany's first waste-free supermarket

Original Unverpackt is aiming to become Germany's first waste-free supermarket

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When it comes to sustainability, you might know Germany best for its renewable energy ambitions and efforts to reduce carbon pollution. While these initiatives have been largely driven by government and researchers, a team of budding entrepreneurs is looking to get in on the action, too. Aiming to open this (northern summer), Original Unverpackt will be Germany's first package-free supermarket.

The start-up is led by Sara Wolf and Miena Glimbovski who, after becoming disillusioned with the amount of plastic involved in big supermarket shopping, dropped out of university and set about removing it from the experience altogether. The project has been in the works for around two years, and with a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign soon drawing to a close, the team is preparing to fling open the doors on what it hopes will be a clean shopping revolution.

To be located in Berlin's Friedrichshain Kreuzberg district, Original Unverpackt will sell food largely sourced from local suppliers as a means of reducing transportation costs and pollution. The products are then sold in bulk using gravity bins (upside-down containers with a lever where the user can decide exactly how much they need). Customers will bring their own containers to take the produce away, borrow reusable containers from the store or use bags made from recycled paper.

On offer will be organic goods, conventional, lower cost items and also non-food cleaning and cosmetic products. Every step of the supply chain is guided by the team's "Zero Waste" philosophy. This focuses on reducing the consumption of resources like water and oil, and chipping away at the 16 million tons of waste packaging that the company says is produced by Germany each year.

The team originally set out to raise €45,000 (around US$61,000) via the Startnext platform for its package-free supermarket. As of this writing, it has yielded more than double that with about another two weeks to run, indicating that many share the company's vision of making disposable packaging a thing of the past.

The (German language) pitch video can be viewed below.

Sources: Original Unverpackt, Startnext

About the Author
Nick Lavars Nick was born outside of Melbourne, Australia, with a general curiosity that has drawn him to some distant (and very cold) places. Somewhere between enduring a winter in the Canadian Rockies and trekking through Chilean Patagonia, he graduated from university and pursued a career in journalism. Having worked for publications such as The Santiago Times and The Conversation, he now writes for Gizmag from Melbourne, excited by tech and all forms of innovation, the city's bizarre weather and curried egg sandwiches. All articles by Nick Lavars

Contrary to the belief, Germany does not diminish its carbon pollution at all. In reality, as they are closing their nuclear plants, they are massively opening new coal burning plants. Thus, their carbon production is quickly increasing even if they are developping renewables energies at the same time. Indeed, they now consume so much coal that they even import notable quantities from Canada and the USA !


The problem with plastic packaging is not that it is used but is that it ends up in landfills instead of being burned to generate electricity.


I was hoping this was an article about food waste from a grocery store.. After working in one for over 4 years, the amount of food that is just tossed into a garbage can is staggering. Chickens who were raised, butchered, spiced up, roasted and then put in packaging... only to be not purchased and thrown away after the 4 hour turn around. Complete waste of a life... we are so damn wasteful and not many realize this.... its not all about plastic folks....

Ryan Jones

'schland!! :)

@Deres, not saying you're wrong but do you have sources?


Bulk packaging is nothing new, bringing your own grocery bags as well.

Works for most produce, even meats have been, and still are wrapped in wax paper.

European style of shopping smaller fresher, daily.

The real problem is not the recycling but the fact the food industry puts so much of into excessive amounts of plastic.

Remember glass milk bottles, and egg baskets?

Maybe it can spawn a new fashion trend, multiple pockets, cargo pants. Pay by weight, at each station, swipe your phone, card or NFC.

Bob Flint

We should throw like a billion of these at America and then we should throw some at Africa


The German carbon emissions doesn't quickly increase. There had been in steady decrease since the 1990. The only decrease was a SMALL decrease the last two years - and this is not due to shutting down nuclear but that gas is extremely coastly compared too coal. They will fix that problem with more expensive CO2 certificates.

Enzo Canuzzi

Come to America, set up same here in US Rivals: Vons, Ralphs, Albertsons, Sprouts, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Bristol Farms, Gelsons ( for So CA). None offer products, produce like U do in your mode Set up store chain for America & Canada

Stephen Russell

"an article about food waste" Ryan, my partner and I just bought a 'Cloey' from Closed Loop Organics for our small cafe. She 'eats' all our edible food waste including bones within 24 hours. Cloey is only a baby, they have versions that can turn a tonne of organic waste into fertilizer per day. No more landfill for us. I agree that it's obscene that we aren't 'required' to do this like the South Koreans.


I would first like to take the opportunity to commend both Nick Levars/Gizmag for providing this venture the exposure it so rightly deserves, and also Sara Wolf/Miena Glimbovski for taking the rare and valiant initiative to implement a concept that is both ingenious and long overdue. From my experience, shopping in Germany is much more pleasant than here in the U.S. with many speciality shoppes like fresh bread makers, butchers, cheese shoppes and quainter grocery stores like Feinkost Böhm in Stuttgart and the famed Dallmayer in Munich. This concept could easily be adopted and even preferred among European consumers given the right set of circumstances (urban locations, competitive pricing, clever marketing, etc...). I have spent the past 20 years consulting international retailers and packaged goods companies alike on the implementation of IT systems for everything from customer marketing databases and applications to SKU rationalization and space management, and although the US market is prized as one of the largest, it is also a more difficult market in which to conduct business in many ways. Europe (Germany being the largest of the economies) is decades ahead of the US in global and environmental initiatives/thinking and also views/embraces change much more readily. In 2007, Tesco, the UK's largest retailer, tried to enter the US market in southern California & the Southwest with a $1.7B initiative called Fresh & Easy which focused on fresh product and reduced packaging, but they were confronted with several unforeseen obstacles including a soft economy, and a misconception of the US consumer. Needless to say, it was not a success. The 10"x6" packaging for 4oz. of Beef Jerky remains. I sincerely wish Sara and Miena much success and a rewarding reception to their concept. I am focusing my next move to be in or near Germany enabling me to visit my family more often, so the next time I am in Berlin, I will definitely spend time in their store.

Kevin Hargis

Okay Dodgy, you scare me.

I agree that there is massive waste here in the USA. Also there is massive waste around the world.

As our population has become educated, thanks in my mind to the Internet, (not the big media) we have become more aware of problems and are rectifying much. There have been huge changes in the last 20 years and it will continue without having to have a particular group who christen themselves the public's best friend requiring others to do a particular thing.

When that happens you can bet that the money trail will run straight from the publics pockets to a few "interested" parties who wholly support the group known as the publics best friend.

We will continue to make great strides and as each individual becomes aware of how powerful the choice of an individual can be we will continue to improve.

Just please don't "require" all of us to do a particular thing.

Dr. Veritas
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