Is Suffolk's refill shop boom partly behind reduction of household waste?

Lucy's Unwrapped & Refill

The row of spices at Lucy's Unwrapped & Refill - Credit: Archant

Households have reduced their waste in Suffolk over the last year, with the increasing number of refill shops playing their part.

Between 2020 and 2021, Suffolk experienced the largest percentage decrease in household waste in the eastern region and was one of the best performers in England. 

There were 453.4kg per Suffolk resident collected in 2019/2020 and 445.5kg in 2020/21, a drop of 1.7%. 

This was also the 14th biggest decrease in England, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). 

Most of the waste, 218,737 tonnes from 2020/21 was sent to be incinerated to make energy, 8,345 tonnes was landfilled, and 140,841 tonnes was recycled or composted. 

Shampoo, conditioner and more body and household washing liquids in Lucy's Unwrapped & Refill

Shampoo, conditioner and more body and household washing liquids in Lucy's Unwrapped & Refill - Credit: Archant

In that time lots of refill shops - where you can fill up goods in containers and not use packaging - also opened in the county. 

These include Bonitas Wholefoods in Stowmarket, Body Shop refills in Ipswich, Hollingsworths Store and Butchers in Chelmondiston starting its refill section, Adore Nature in Hadleigh, Home Kitchen Lavenham and Woodbridge’s Refill Eco.

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Newly opened, in July 2021, Lucy's Unwrapped and Refill in Woodbridge Road, Ipswich, thinks costs played a bigger role over the environment in pushing people to visit her store. 

Lucy Storey thinks a lot of her customers see the benefits of moving to refill products as you are able to make them last longer. 

She explains that the washing up liquid, as it is more concentrated, is able to be used for longer. 

Lucy Storey has opened the zero-waste shop Lucy's Unwrapped & Refill in Woodbridge Road, Ipswich.

Lucy Storey opened the zero-waste shop Lucy's Unwrapped & Refill in Woodbridge Road, Ipswich in 2021 - Credit: Archant

Ms Storey said more and more people are understanding that there is this trade-off and you are also paying for goods that are "ethically made and locally sourced" at her store. 

Mel Menhams, from Suffolk mobile refill business Cupboard Love, which started three years ago, regularly goes to Framlingham (Tuesday), Woodbridge (Thursday), Kesgrave (alternate Fridays), and Waldringfield (alternate Fridays), thinks the environment has played the biggest role in changing people's minds. 

Mel Menhams who runs mobile refill shop Cupboard Love

Mel Menhams who runs mobile refill shop Cupboard Love wants families in Suffolk to think about the positive impact refilling 'just one bottle' would have if every household in the county did it - Credit: Mel Menhams

"I think it's got to be the environment as refilling can be expensive and the environment is making people more conscious," she said. 

"People think it's going to be a big change but they can take small steps like recycling and using the same bottle."