Bronwyn Kidd (00:04):

Hi there and welcome to the life freshly sorted podcast. I’m Bronwyn Kidd, the creator of SUSTOMi, and this is the show where I’ll be bringing you some of the latest, greatest ideas, stories, resources, and some of the most interesting conversations in the health and sustainability space. And it’s all for the benefit of our health and the earth. I do believe that improving health and the earth come hand in hand and it really starts with the people. So wherever you are along your low-waste or low tox journey, there’s something here for you. And remember real change will start with you. Let’s jump right in and bring on today’s guest. One area of ways we really focus on SUSTOMi, is food packaging and reducing household waste really starts with the way you shop and one Tasmanian grocer is putting a fair amount of effort into shifting the way that we do things to be able to shop more low-waste and providing more package-free options for shoppers is Hill Street Grocer.

Bronwyn Kidd (01:03):

So today we’re joined by Claire from Hill Street Grocer to chat about what initiatives Hill Street Grocer is taking to go low-waste. And they’ve recently opened a new store which has many bulk food options throughout the store, which I find really exciting. And we’ll be going through some step by step guides on how to shop package free and how to bring your own containers and Claire will help explain what that process looks like and because we want to make it easy for you. So let’s get started. Welcome Claire. Thanks for joining me. Can you start off just by telling us a little bit about what’s driving the changes behind the way we shop at the moment. So moving towards more low-waste shopping. And what is your straight doing in terms of structuring this stores?

Claire (01:41):

So the changes are really coming from our customers. We really make sure to listen to what our customers are telling us. And at the moment they’re telling us, you know, they want their strawberries without ponnuts. They want to be able to buy their cleaning liquid in their own container. They don’t want to have to purchase their plastic every single time they shop.

Bronwyn Kidd (02:12):

Okay. Awesome. So I guess that goes to show you that really is great when people speak up and ask for what they want. And how are these people telling you? Is this on social media, or in store..

Claire (02:23):

Facebook messages, in store.. We have little feedback devices in our store that people leave comments on. But yeah, all the time.

Claire (02:32):

It’s less plastic, less plastic bags, all that sort of stuff.

Bronwyn Kidd (02:36):

Could you go into a little bit about what your role is at Hill Street and how you got involved in the sustainability side of it? ‘Cause I know you’re a big role in the new stores and also implementing the bulk food side of things.

Claire (02:53):

So I started the business working in the deli in our original West Hobart store and now I’ve moved up into sort of business analyst, business improvement kind of role. My involvement in sustainability has come around really naturally for me as it’s something I do personally, just always making efforts to be as low-waste as I can be.

Bronwyn Kidd (03:16):

I remember you telling me there’s a particular documentary or movie that you watched?

Claire (03:20):

Ah yes. So ABC documentary called War on Waste is initially where all the customer feedback started coming when that was airing, which was back in 2017, where we started the initiative to remove the plastic shopping bags from stores. And for that process we surveyed our customers, found that 85% of the respondents would support our change to going plastic shopping bag-free. And therefore we implemented that in 2017.

Bronwyn Kidd (03:51):

85%. That’s really incredible. It’s a sign that we really, really need. So what exactly are you doing in stores at the moment to go low-waste? ‘Cause I know you’ve got the new Sandy Bay store and you’ve got the box food bins. You’ve also got the dispensers for the cleaning products. What else are you doing?

Claire (04:08):

So we’ve replaced plastic produce bags with home compostable cornstarch bags. So they, these break down in your home compost in probably a week or just over.

Bronwyn Kidd (04:19):

Wow. So you literally just pop them in the compost. Does it same thing?

Claire (04:22):

Yep. So what I do is I use it for my compost bin liner. So for you know, your food scraps or whatnot, you don’t necessarily need a line of it. If you want to use one, use that that breaks down quickly and then it can just go. If you don’t have composting at home, it can just go in your green council waste bin.

Bronwyn Kidd (04:41):

What else have we got?

Claire (04:42):

So we’ve got the eco-friendly deli containers, which are replacing the 720,000 plastic containers that we used to use every year.

Bronwyn Kidd (04:51):

720,000. Wow! And how many stores is that coming out of?

Claire (04:56):

That’s across 11 stores.

Bronwyn Kidd (04:58):

11 stores. That’s an incredible number. Wasn’t so what kind of material is the deli container is made out of?

Claire (05:04):

So we’ve got two kinds. So the circular bioplastic ones, so they’re made out of NGO, which is bio packs bioplastic. That’s a commercially compostable material, which can go in the Hobart city council, green bins for commercial composting. And then we’ve got the sugarcane, sort of rectangular and square containers, which you may have a sugarcane pulp, which is a byproduct of juicing the sugarcane, which would otherwise be burned.

Bronwyn Kidd (05:34):

Interesting. And ’cause they’re the ones that look a little bit like cardboard, right? And do they have any impact on the food? You know, ’cause when I first saw them I thought, Oh, putting my food in cardboard, why would it be super packaging. Come on.

Claire (05:49):

People think they will go soggy, which they feel like they do go slightly soggy. But we did test them, for a good, you know, week and a half, 10 days and found that they feel soggy. They don’t, they never like go through,

Bronwyn Kidd (06:04):

but they don’t leave. They don’t. And what else are you doing?

Claire (06:07):

So we’ve got milk on tap in Sandy Bay and West Hobart at the moment, so that’s Bruny Island milk. So it’s a very small volume, very ethically produced milk.

Bronwyn Kidd (06:20):

Fantastic. So you’ve got milk. And what about things like the soft plastic recycling? Are you doing anything with that at your collection point?

Claire (06:28):

So that’s, that’s a real goal of ours. But we’re finding that, the big guys, the big supermarkets in Tasmania are already taking up a lot of the ability for soft plastics to be collected. So we’re really, still trying to find an option for that one, but it’s something we would love to do, but it’s just finding that option for the collection of it.

Bronwyn Kidd (06:51):

Mmm. Okay. And what do you think it’s going to take for the collection services?

Claire (06:55):

I think it’s just getting a local collection service that is happy to take out volume on top of, you know, what the big supermarkets do, which is a lot.

Bronwyn Kidd (07:05):

So you’ve obviously made a lot of changes in store. And one thing that I love about the new store is that you’ve actually got the eco-friendly products within the usual aisles of the supermarket. So for example, the SUSTOMi products, you’ve got the bees wax wraps right there next to the glad wrap. And so it shows people what the options are and it has the alternative right there, which I think is fantastic. So, I’m saying that anyway, yet in Australia or especially not in Tazi and I love that the reusables and making it into the more mainstream.

Claire (07:42):

I think it’s a lot around education because you know, if you’re used to using cling wrap, you’re not necessarily looking for an alternative, but then if it’s put right in front of you while you’re looking for your cling wrap, then you get, you know, you learn about what the other options are.

Bronwyn Kidd (07:58):

And it makes it so easy as well. And it’s not so hard to walk to the other side of the store. What are the alternatives that are, you know, tucked away somewhere in the gift section, which they quite often are. So it’s becoming more mainstream, which is awesome. And speaking of making it easy to go low-waste, could you talk us through what it looks like to actually go in store and if someone say wanted to buy all their groceries, waste free, what it would it look like if I was to bring my own containers and get my own. Let’s start with the bulk food and then we’ll go into the cleaning products. So what would that look like?

Claire (08:36):

Um, so first you’ve got to come in and weigh your containers on our special scale. So what you would do, you put your, your container on the scale and print out a sticker, which gives you the container weight, which has a barcode on it.

Speaker 1 (08:49):

And what kind of containers are we talking? Like glass jars, produce bags..

Claire (08:56):

Honestly, whatever, plastic containers, glass containers, whatever you’ve got. So you get your barcode with the container weight, you’ll fill you containers with product. We’ve got little codes on each product. So just take note of that code. You place the food container back on the scale and keen that product code. Then you’ll scan that container weight sticker, which will remove that weight from the price of the item.

Bronwyn Kidd (09:24):

So meaning you only pay for the goods that you actually purchased, not the weight of the container as well.

Claire (09:29):

Yeah, exactly. And then you just print out a pricing sticker for the guys to scan.

Bronwyn Kidd (09:33):

Okay. So I’m gonna stick it on your container, take it to the checkout. And that’s it. Brilliant. And what about the cleaning products?

Claire (09:41):

So cleaning products, I find customers are a little bit scared of using the little taps on them. [Why is that?] And we agree they are a little bit hard to use but you know, we’re trying to find the easiest ones to use. I think we’ve nearly got it. But you know, still trial and error everywhere. I think. [Yeah. the first time I used them I was worried about..] the leak coming out. It’s yeah. If, what if I can’t turn it off? I think the main concern, [yeah]. So I think, you know, growing at the hand is probably the easiest way. But short of that, just ask a staff member to help you,

Bronwyn Kidd (10:17):

You are very happy to help out. Fantastic. Okay. So then it’s the same process. So you take your container that you might use, an old shampoo bottle or shampoo jar off your shampoo or your old dishwashing liquid container and reuse it and weigh it. And then you put the sticker of the weight of the container on the container and then you fill it up and then you weigh it for a second time. And print a second sticker. [Yeah.]

Claire (10:48):

So you’ll scan that barcode and then you’ll remove the weight of the container.

Bronwyn Kidd (10:52):

Uh, so you scan your first bar code and then re-weigh it and then put the second sticker on it.

Claire (10:58):

So we’ve got all these steps included with our scale in store. So if you forget to have a rate of that or ask a staff member, they’re all happy to help you.

Bronwyn Kidd (11:08):

That’s it. And I think it’s one of those things that the first time you do it, it might be a little bit uncomfortable. But once you know the drill and it becomes so easy. [Yeah] And it just comes like second nature after that. So what are some of the challenges you found that people have when doing this for the first time?

Claire (11:26):

I think it’s mainly around not knowing how to do it and also the thought that, Oh, I don’t have any jars. I need to go and purchase, you know, fancy ones. So it looks good in my pantry. When really you can use like your old pasta sauce jars, your shampoo bottles, you know, everyone’s got old containers that they have lying around that they can repurpose.

Bronwyn Kidd (11:49):

And there’s ways in making them look pretty and there’s so many YouTube tutorials and Pinterest pages about how to do it. Yeah, you can get Blackboard page and paint on the front of your jars and then use chalk to write on them. And there are ways of making it more look beautiful, which is something that we do value. A lot of people do value that. Yeah, but you can just look that up online if you are interested in doing that. But yeah, it is really important to remember that it doesn’t matter what it looks like. It’s the purpose behind that.

Claire (12:20):

I think one of the key things in being low-waste is actually reusing things because we say reduce, reuse and recycle. But I think the two first ones, so the reduce and the reuse other really key ones before you get to the recycle.

Bronwyn Kidd (12:38):

It’s also about using up what you’ve already got. So I really liked the idea of taking your old container that you’ve got ’cause you do have to finish it before you go and buy more. So when people potentially forget their containers. And for example, if I want to go to the deli and buy some meat or some of the delicious cheeses you’ve got. And I forget to take my Silicon patch or my glass container. What are the options that you’ve got at the deli? ‘Cause I know you’ve talked about the containers that were made out of the sugarcane and the bioplastic ones. So I’m making these switches. If those containers that I take home and I accidentally put them in the rubbish bin instead of the compost bin or they don’t get commercially composted, what’s the benefit of that? Yeah, ’cause it can sound like it’s a waste of time to start using these bioplastics when they’re not going to biodegrade if we just put them into landfill because of all the Arabic first and a Rubik biodegrading and so forth. Yeah, what’s the benefit of still using these bioplastics?

Claire (13:47):

So the benefit is in the actual production of the bioplastic. So the production of the NGO bioplastic actually meets 75% less CO2 than the production of regular plastic. [Wow! And what about the sugarcane pulp?] So the sugarcane ones are made of a sugarcane pulp. That’s actually a byproduct leftover from the production of the juicing of the sugarcane. [So it’s otherwise give a waste product.. Awesome!] So it would otherwise be burned. So it’s reusing that into the sugarcane pulp basis.

Bronwyn Kidd (14:19):

And are they fully biodegradable? I imagine they would be [Yes, they are.] Wonderful! And they biodegrade if I put them in my home compost bin?

Claire (14:27):

So yeah, the sugarcane pulp ones will but not the bioplastic.

Bronwyn Kidd (14:31):

So what’s next for all the Hill Street stores? What’s your ultimate goal in terms of waste reduction?

Claire (14:37):

Oh we’ve got, you know, dream plans like having wind turbines on the top of our stores to power stores. But I think that’s very, very far off.

Bronwyn Kidd (14:46):

Wow, that’s really cool. So is that about being self-sufficient in terms of energy production? Awesome. How far away is that?

Claire (14:55):

Uh, I think a long time. This is dreamland. I believe that is the dream. But encouraging customers to bring their own containers is a big one. Replacing ideally paper with something that’s not plastic backed. [Really? What kind of material might that be?] It would probably just be like a bioplastic or a sugar, sugar wrap or something similar. Removing or replacing plastic cups, strolls, plates, etc. for my shelves and replacing them with more environmentally friendly options. So the issue there is just price points. At the moment we’re finding that environmentally friendly options come with the premium price whereas they don’t really need to. But once we get the demand for all these products, then obviously it brings the volume up for us. Therefore, the price down,

Bronwyn Kidd (15:45):

That’s it. It’s the same for the producers of the products as well as more demand. I can bring my price point down a lot. Brilliant! Is there anything else that you’re working towards?

Claire (15:56):

Well, we’ve already replaced any plastic courtesy cutlery that we offer from our delis with the wooden option. Food waste currently goes to local farmers for feeding livestock. We donated a lot of food waste to wildlife groups after the Tasmanian bush fires recently.

Bronwyn Kidd (16:14):

So we’re talking food waste in terms of deli waste, something or just.. [Deli waste or produce that isn’t quite up to scratch] Wow! How much waste do you have? [Quite a bit.]

Claire (16:25):

A lot more than we’d like, but we’re also working on things like just ordering the right amount so that we then don’t have to waste it.

Bronwyn Kidd (16:34):

I think that are a little bit organizations popping up around the place that are taking that food. I’m not sure if it’s legal yet in Tasmania. I know it is on the mainland to collect food from restaurants and grocery stores. Organizations like OzHarvest and it’s food bank as well in Tasmania who do take donations and collections from supermarkets and restaurants that have got excess food and then they reuse it and give it to homeless people, which is awesome. We actually made a donation to food bank for a dollar from every purchase in the last few months meant to food bank and helped feed people in need. So even just a $1 contribution creates around about two meals, give or take, which is awesome. All right, we’re getting towards the end of it. So I’ve just got a few closing questions. It’s pretty quick conference. I did not prepare for you a quick.. For someone who is trying to reduce their waste, is there any kind of innovations that you’re getting really excited about in the low-waste space? I mean we’ve talked about some new materials, but is there anything else?

Claire (17:37):

Well, just yesterday, I was shown a prototype for a commercial cling wrap, so we’re thinking [a bio-cling wrap? Awesome!] Yeah. So that would replace, you know, we’re thinking the produce tries that currently get wrapped in plastic in our stores. So for us, if we have to mark something down in produce, it genuinely goes on a tray and then gets wrapped and priced. So this way it would be on a probably a bio cane tray wrapped in like a sugar wrap and in price, which is a key point for us.

Bronwyn Kidd (18:15):

What’s your favorite thing about going green?

Claire (18:17):

All the lovely glass containers that are around. I think I spend way too much money on, you know, buying Silicon food wraps and you know, all sorts of browsing online stores. Yeah, exactly.

Bronwyn Kidd (18:31):

That’s something nice about opening the pantry and having it look amazing. You just feel good about what you’re doing and it makes me feel better about the choices you’re making to go low waste. So what is your favorite low waste products that you have made?

Claire (18:41):

I recently purchased some really nice glass lock containers should I’ve been using for lunches, which is really nice. [Nice colors? I also use those and awesome..] Oh the other thing is, shampoo bars, which I’ve really been loving. [So which ones are you using?] The Shampoo with a Purpose. So I’ve found that for a $15 bar, I would get three months worth of hit washers, at all rather than spending, I’d say twice a week rather than spending probably $100 buying a one liter bottle of shampoo and conditioner, which would last me probably about the same. [What does that work out to vapor wash?] Maybe 40 cents or something for those shampoo bar.

Bronwyn Kidd (19:37):

Yeah. I want to calculate that actually. So it’s $15 divided by three months, two times per week. So it’s that 59 cents per wash. If my calculations are correct, I have to double check that.

Claire (19:54):

That will be big cost saving there. Yeah, I;m fine. My hair is..yeah, the same.

Bronwyn Kidd (19:58):

It looks great. It’s not oily, it’s not dry. It looks just right and it also cuts back on plastic waste and also toxins as well. So you know.. Yeah. [So that’s an old natural shampoo bars] Awesome. What’s one thing you wish you could make happen to make the world a better place?

Claire (20:15):

Oh, tough one..Suppliers to not use plastic. I think so. [What do you think it’s going to take to get there?] A lot. I think like, the pricing, the price of plastic is just so much cheaper than the environmentally friendly alternatives. Like where at the moment where, like the new environmentally friendly deli containers, we’re talking they’re 14 cents for a large, sugarcane top base whereas the plastic one costs 8 cents.

Bronwyn Kidd (20:48):

So that’s a big change.

Claire (20:51):

You know, there’s like a 50% premium so we could be using a plastic or plastic option and saving that money, but you know, but instead we want to be more sustainable. So, you know, that’s a cost that week where for everyone’s benefit.

Bronwyn Kidd (21:11):

Alright, thank you so much for joining me Claire. If you’re not given us some great tips into how to actually go shopping low-waste. So I think particularly for people who do have a bit of anxiety about the process of using their own containers, you’ve given some really good value and I love what you’re doing with your street and for those of you listening, you can definitely find this SUSTOMi products at the Hill Street stores like I mentioned in the aisles right next to the glad wrap, which is fantastic. So I highly recommend go down and have a look and can’t wait to see what you guys do in the near future.

Claire (21:51):

It’d be very exciting, I think.

Bronwyn Kidd (21:54):

All right. Thanks Claire.

Claire (21:55):

Thanks for having me.