First packaging-free store in Estonia opens in Pärnu

"Paljas pala" ("Bare product"), Estonia's first packaging-free store, preparing to open in Pärnu in May 2016. (Johanna Maria Tõugu/Paljas pala)
By Ester Vilgats
5/27/2016 8:52 PM
Category: News

Two young Pärnu residents recently opened Estonia’s first packaging-free store, where customers buying groceries and cosmetics must bring along their own appropriate bottles, jars, baggies or containers from home. If anyone forgets, however, they can purchase a container from the store if needed.

Estonia’s first packaging-free store “Paljas pala” — or Bare Product in English — only just opened its doors at the end of last week, but it has already been well received by shoppers, as it is unlikely that anyone can stand the heap of wrappers and packaging that accumulates at home after each trip to the store. The Pärnu store’s two young owners would like to prove, however, that things can be done differently, reported ETV’s nightly news broadcast “Aktuaalne kaamera.”

According to Johanna Maria Tõugu, owner of the packaging-free store, she had no choice but to open up such a shop. “This packaging thing really bothers me, and since this [package-free] movement with this kind of ideology doesn’t exist in Estonia, then I thought, I’ll do it myself then,” explained Tõugu.

She explained that she was inspired to open her shop by the packaging-free supermarket that opened in Berlin nearly two years ago — the first of its kind in Germany. “When I heard about that, I thought that clearly it was possible then,” noted the new store owner.

While Tõugu is still a high school student, co-owner SiIver Smeljanski has already graduated from university. He is the one responsible for making sure that business at the store gets off to a good start. First he had to take out a loan from the bank, and then of course find businesses who would supply them with goods.

“When we talk with small businesses, then they’re actually very pleased, as packaging is an expense for them,” explained Smeljanski. “In that case it’s more reasonable to package [goods] in bigger quantities — then there is only one package. It’s more difficult with mass producers, as everything comes off the line and machines do all the packaging.”

That the store is packaging-free does not necessarily automatically make it an “eco shop,” although the store does also sell eco-friendly products. In any case, shoppers are pleased with the new store, as it embraces a new way of thinking and offers shoppers a variety of fresh Estonian products.

Editor: Aili Sarapik

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