Nude Foods: Pioneering a Plastic-free Cape Town

Cape Town residents can look forward to a more environmentally-friendly place to do their shopping next month as the city’s first ever plastic-free grocery store opens its doors. Originally due to open in November, Nude Foods is based in the East City on Constitution Street and, despite running behind schedule, looks forward to receiving its first customers this December.

In today’s convenience-driven age, many consumers fail to realise how their purchasing decisions affect the environment. As we’ve already written about in numerous blog posts, plastic is one of the most indestructible and harmful materials that exists today.

Minimising the amount of plastic we use on a day-to-day basis can therefore go a long way towards reducing plastic pollution which threatens the environment and all of its organisms. Although recycling is becoming more and more normalised in South Africa, it is estimated that only 17% of plastic is currently recycled. In addition, mainstream grocery stores typically stock products that contain single-use plastic packaging which cannot be recycled and releases toxic chemicals when discarded.

Motivated by his own personal frustration with superfluous plastic packaging, Paul Rubin decided to partner with Sherene Kingma and take action. Together they planned to create a grocery store for locals to shop at without acquiring single-use plastic that would, ultimately, end up in landfills or the ocean. Their plastic-free store will stock nutritious and affordable wholefoods as well as earth-friendly home and body products. In an interview with Crush, Paul explains that the concept is about “going back to how our grandparents shopped” and becoming more mindful of how much one really needs in order to lead a more economical lifestyle.

Paul also dismisses the notion that stores of this variety are “hipster” purely for being products of the new age. He explains in an interview with Food24 that the concept is not trendy but rather “wholly necessary and a fundamental step in the right direction in waste reduction.” And while we wholeheartedly agree with his sentiment, there is still the issue accessibility to consider in terms of who can afford to shop at Nude. We are pleased to discover that Paul hasn’t failed to recognise this.

“We are not trying to create something that is only targeted at your affluent Capetonian,” says Paul. He goes on to explain that Nude will attempt to price basic and essential goods competitively. Plus, without the plastic packaging, many items may actually cost less than they would at conventional supermarkets due to the fact that packaging can account for anything between 15 and 40% of an item’s cost. To ensure maximum affordability, however, Nude plans to sell both GMO and non-GMO produce as organic produce often costs more.

So, how does the plastic-free concept manifest in-store?

Paul says that re-usable containers are carriers will be used for packaging, such as 100% cotton bags and glass jars. These items will be on sale for customers to purchase and re-use in future, but folks are also welcome to bring their own containers along (for the time being, at least).

Is Cape Town on its way to becoming greener?

Although there is still loads of work to be done, there is reason to believe that things are heading that way. In Paul’s opinion, the move towards plastic-free packaging in South Africa is going to happen quickly. He reasons that the more conscious people become of what they are eating, the more conscious they will become of how food is packaged.

We recently heard about the DA’s plans to ban un-recyclable shopping bags in the Western Cape, while other African countries like Kenya have already taken the plunge and outlawed plastic bags entirely. Over the last few years, Cape Town has seen an influx of organic neighbourhood markets emerge and it seems there is a growing demand for more environmentally-conscious products and services. It stands to reason then that waste-free shopping may not be such a far-fetched reality, after all.

Although these green initiatives may seem small, they are deeply significant. In the future, we hope that plastic-free grocery stores like Nude will become more commonplace in and around the Cape Town and, hopefully, the rest of the country. Perhaps we will be able to reduce the number of plastic bags being used across the country. As it currently stands, 10 million plastic bags are used globally every five minutes. Think about that next time you do your shopping.

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