Toothpaste tablets taken from a jar, maple syrup flowing from a spout, dishwasher powder bought with a ladle: in the United States, bulk sales are gaining followers.
At the Mason store
Years after the rise of a similar movement in Europe, it is a new trend in the United States, and the concept is spreading in several major cities of the country.
In the store in the capital, "people even came to fill the packaging of their newspapers", enthuses Anna Marino, the 34-year-old boss.
This type of store is needed, experts say, to bring about behavioral change in the world's largest economy.
Americans produce an average of 2.2 kg of waste per day, compared to an average of 1.4 in Europe, according to official statistics.
Anna Marino's goal is to help everyone get closer to zero waste. For her and her family, the first target was paper towels.
Its abandonment "resulted in a significant drop in our daily waste", explains the one who founded Mason
They sell beans, oatmeal and other bulk products from vending machines on the walls, alongside large cans of oil and vinegar. On the shelves are other curiosities: bread and unwrapped vegetables, unlike the custom in the United States.
Anna Marino says she tries to avoid "exorbitant prices" to keep her store "accessible."
In the United States, less than a third of household waste (and 9% of plastics) is recycled or composted - compared to 49% in Europe. And on average, each American generates 130 kilos of plastic waste per year, compared to 43 kilos for the French.
These statistics also push Anna Marino to ask her suppliers to use as little packaging as possible.
"We will not get out of the plastic crisis by recycling", warns Jenny Gitlitz, of the organization Beyond Plastics, which fights against their pollution.
She mentions the harmful effects of plastic on health: carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, etc.
Added to this is pollution in the environment, with microplastic particles found all over the planet, from the Mariana Trench to the summit of Everest - to human blood.
Unlike aluminum and glass, for example, plastics cannot be recycled endlessly, as their structure gradually degrades.
In addition, the recycling of many types of plastics is complex. This solution should only be used as a last resort, summarizes Shelie Miller, of the School for Environment and Sustainable Development at the University of Michigan.
“I worry that too often people go straight to recycling without thinking about reducing and reusing,” she told AFP.
The professor warns that the actions of individuals or small shops will not be enough to upset the system.
Implementing such changes for a more sustainable future is a "fully shared responsibility" between companies, authorities and waste managers, she insists.
At another Washington-area store, Emoke Gaidosch pours liquid soap into a large container. The company she co-runs, FullFillery, sells many of its own cosmetics locally.
“We want to reuse as much as possible, because recycling still has a massive carbon footprint,” explains Rini Saha, head of the store.
And buying in bulk has another environmental benefit, says Professor Miller: you buy only the quantities you need.
Proof of the success of this type of store in Washington, FullFillery has left the outdoor markets of its beginnings to settle in a real store. And mason
The model "is profitable", welcomes Rini Saha.
Maybe not as much as a package store, "but I think it's inevitable, you have no choice," she says. "The sector has to go through this."
25/03/2023 14:27:36 - Washington (AFP) - © 2023 AFP