Eco Heroes: The Rise of the Refill Store

The vegetable section of a shop

At Naked Sprout we sell to pubs, offices, wedding venues and homes all over the country. We’re grateful for every single customer, and today we want to give a special shout out to one category in particular, refill stores. 

From humble beginnings in a few scattered locations these stores are now popping up on high streets all over the country. In early 2024 Marks and Spencer announced that, following a successful trial, they’ll be bringing elements of refill shopping to 25 of their UK stores. At Naked Sprout we’re delighted to see this kind of shop thriving, they represent a new way of thinking about how we buy and use everyday products. 

So what are refill stores, why are they catching on, and how do they support sustainable shopping?

Rice in a paper bag

What Are Refill Stores?

Refill stores, also known as zero-waste shops, are shops that sell everyday goods avoiding packaging wherever possible. These stores typically offer a wide range of products, from food to cleaning supplies and bath products. Customers bring in their own containers which they can fill at the shop, reducing waste by eliminating unnecessary packaging and encouraging people to reuse containers instead.

The concept of buying food and household items with as little packaging as possible isn’t particularly new. For those of us who buy fruit and veg from a greengrocer or farm shop the option of bringing our own bags for our purchases has long been available. We can also see examples of long-running specialist eco shops like Infinity Foods in Brighton, which has sold unpackaged products wherever possible since the 1970s. 

But the concept of the refill shop has gathered steam in recent years, fuelled by growing awareness of the devastating environmental impact of single-use plastic. As more people seek ways to reduce the amount of plastic they’re buying just to throw away, refill stores offer a simple solution.

Beans and lentils

What Can You Buy in Refill Stores?

So you’ve got your containers, you’ve saved the location of your nearest refill store to your phone, and you’re ready to wave goodbye to as much single-use plastic as you can. But what can you buy at refill stores? 

The good news is it’s not all mung beans and lentils! Here's a look at some of the goods typically stocked by these shops. 

Food Products: Most refill stores will stock bulk bins filled with rice, nuts, pasta, spices, and even snacks like dried fruit and Bombay mix. You can also find liquid items like oils and vinegars. 

Cleaning Supplies: Instead of buying a new plastic bottle of washing up liquid every couple of weeks you can simply refill the bottle you already have! This category often includes laundry liquid and all-purpose cleaners.

Personal Care Products: Shampoo, conditioner and body wash are usually available in refillable options, and you can generally find solid bars of soap sold without packaging as well. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention toilet rolls here - Naked Sprout rolls, which come bare as the day they were born, are sold in various refill shops around the UK. 

Paper shopping bags

How Do Refill Stores Help us be more Sustainable?

Refill stores often provide more than products without plastic. Here’s a few other ways they help us keep our mind on the environment while shopping.

Reduse, reuse, and then recycle: The importance of reducing waste, and reusing items cannot be overstated, but many businesses overlook the first two components of the reduce, reuse, recycle mantra and concentrate all their efforts on recycling. Refill stores help us to refocus on the whole picture, encouraging us to buy the exact amount of products we actually need, and reuse the packaging and containers we already have. 

Supporting Eco-Friendly Products: Many refill stores prioritise products that are organic, locally sourced, or made with ingredients that are less damaging to the environment than standard alternatives. By supporting them, you can help push the momentum towards positive change. 

Promoting green networks: Done well, refill stores can serve as a hub for environmental organising. Among the food and household products you’ll often find an area where the people can leave information about local green events and networks for others to connect with, fostering community among green-minded customers!

Unwrapped toilet rolls in a basket


If you’re new to the world of refilling, hopefully that’s some inspiration for you! Getting started is as simple as collecting a few clean, empty jars or bottles from around your house. Mason jars, old pasta sauce jars, and even shampoo bottles can serve as refillable containers. Head to your local refill store with these in tow, and don't be shy about asking for help getting started. In our experience the staff in these shops are enthusiastic about the refill concept, and happy to guide newcomers through the process of weighing and refilling their containers.

As refill stores continue to grow in popularity, they remind us that small changes make a difference. When it comes to reducing waste, reusing what we have, and supporting local businesses, refill stores offer a practical hub for more environmentally-conscious living. If you haven’t already visited one of these shops we’d recommend popping in to the next one you pass, and if you already have a favourite, please do let them know about Naked Sprout

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