LONDON - A zero waste shop won an ethical business award in Wales on Wednesday night, highlighting a growing trend among retailers to cut plastic use as worry over its environmental impact rises.
Judges praised Natural Weigh in south Wales for educating people about the dangers of single-use plastic and for providing a solution to minimize its use — by asking customers to bring their own containers to buy food by weight.
“They have entered the market at a time when it is both topical and of importance to people,” said Chris James, chairman of the judging panel for the Social Business Wales Awards, which recognizes firms that seek to do good and make a profit.
Food and drink manufacturers and retailers around the world are under pressure to find green alternatives to plastic as the United Nations has called on governments to ban or tax single-use bags or food containers to stem pollution.
U.N. figures show 8 million tons of plastic — bottles, packaging and other waste — enter the ocean each year, degrading precious habitats, killing marine life and entering the human food chain.
Consumer disquiet over pollution accelerated after popular British naturalist David Attenborough urged consumers to stop using plastic bottles and start protecting marine life in his “Blue Planet II” documentary series.
“When that program was released it raised the profile of the issue, and the public awareness. That really helped,” Chloe Masefield, owner of Natural Weigh, which took the “one to watch” award, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Masefield opened the shop in March with her husband, Robin, who used to work in a marine fisheries laboratory.
She said the couple were motivated by looking at seawater samples through a microscope.
“Every single one of them has plastic in it, which is pretty shocking because it’s not the sort of thing that you see when you look out across the sea,” Masefield said.
Britain has more than 40 zero waste shops, up from “a handful” in 2012, said Catherine Conway, founder of zero waste consultancy Unpackaged, quoting figures from a Facebook support group that tracks numbers.
“The Blue Planet programs shown before Christmas were the light switch that got it into the public consciousness,” said Conway.
“Mainstream news that never focused on environmental issues suddenly picked up the fact that plastic was such a problem.”