SeasonsThe Seasons is a much-loved produce and grocery store that’s been in business in Forest Row near the Ashdown Forest since 1971.

Since current owner Robin Walden took over six years ago, he has focused on making the business fully organic and to reduce unnecessary plastic and packaging wherever possible. Robin came to talk to Plastic Free Lewes at our July meeting.

Here’s what we learnt about running a less-plastic business:

  1. It’s more labour- and time-intensive
    Weighing out produce, refilling detergent and washing liquid bottles and helping customers get to grips with DIY dry goods dispensers requires more staff than a shop where everything’s pre-packed in plastic. The time and physical effort required to refill large dispensers, and to clean equipment before refilling it, has to be factored in too.
  2. It requires upfront capital investment
    Setting up scales and DIY dispensers for multiple lines of dry goods can demand an investment running into many thousands of pounds. And bulk buying dry goods can require radically rethinking storage.
  3. You need to get your suppliers on board
    Getting suppliers willing to supply goods in bulk and with minimal single-use or unrecyclable plastic can be a huge challenge. Recycling information on organic goods from smaller producers can be especially poor.
  4. It can take time to re-educate customers
    Teaching customers how to use DIY dispensers, encouraging them to bring their own reusable bags and boxes can take time and patience. But once they’ve got into the habit, they’re often hooked. The Seasons at Forest Row even has a regular ‘zero waste’ focus group to explore what the store could do next.

In short, it’s questionable whether the supermarkets – even with all their scale and buying power – would be willing to invest the time, effort and resources to radically reduce their plastic footprint. Is it the independent local stores such as The Seasons that are really going to be the key to ‘less plastic’ shopping?

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