Five step guide to setting up a zero waste store

In March 2017, HL Display started a mission to help retailers become more sustainable by selling its first sets of gravity bin dispensers to an independent store.

The Green Grocer, in Norwich, had a vision to become more sustainable by reducing their plastic and food waste with the installation of our 3e and 4eBins. They also looked to reduce plastic waste in their fresh produce department, with the installation of our Sigma unit. (click here to read their case study).

From there, our customers across the UK have grown as more and more retailers look to reduce their plastic waste.

Whilst supermarkets and convenience stores pick up on the trend, HL Display is seeing more specialist zero waste stores arrive in the country, as many independent stores are trying to become more sustainable.

Increase in zero waste stores

According to the website, over 200 zero waste shops (or stores where some unpackaged produce can be found) exist in the UK.

But what are the key aspects you should consider when setting up your own zero waste store and how can you make it a success?

We put these questions to one of our customers. Jeanette Wong (pictured above with partner Tom) is the co-founder of The Clean Kilo (see video below), the largest zero-waste supermarket in the UK.


She, along with her partner Tom Pell, have two stores in the Birmingham area. Their aim is for the zero waste food system to become main stream to help achieve a waste-free environment.

But as well as their supermarket, The Clean Kilo run zero waste workshops to try and help other businesses cut down on waste.

Jeanette offers her insights into five key areas to consider if you're starting your own zero waste store.

The five key steps to consider when setting up a zero-waste store.


Choosing the right location will have an impact on the success of your store. Don’t be put off by choosing an area such as a suburb over a city centre. The Clean Kilo has two stores around Birmingham (Bournville and Digbeth). Our store in Digbeth is a ten-minute walk from a major city-centre train station, however, the store in Bournville, located five miles away in a residential area, has performed better. The store in Digbeth may see visitors to the city drop in and buy the odd item, but our Bournville site sees regular customers come into the store to buy, what could be considered a weekly shop. It is important to consider the population density of your location and the next closest bulk offering – we recommend completing a survey in the area or on local community Facebook groups to gauge the demand.


Our stores have been successful down to our marketing. How much you spend on your marketing will depend on your budget, but it’s important to be bold and creative to let people know your about. Utilise social media platforms and don’t be scared to use them. Make sure that you let your potential customers know the people behind the brand. You want to connect with customers so a post with people involved will always tell a better story than a post about a product within your store. Your branding is also key. Make sure your fresh, relevant and appeal to your customers. Having strong imagery will help create a positive brand and be more appealing to your customers. We also found some success in local events and exhibitions and these are another area that should be considered.


This will again come down to budget. However, the way your store is presented will have a huge impact on your success. We have gained a lot of press because of the way our store looks. We have upcycled and we feel that both our stores look unique. If you can afford to do so, get help around the design of your store. You want to look well-presented and, although the quality of the stock you sell will be a key factor to your success, a well-designed store will help communicate to customers that a lot of care has been taken in all aspects.


It was important for us to be known as a zero waste supermarket and not just a shop. We wanted everything under one roof so that customer didn’t need to go elsewhere for their grocery shopping. Dried goods such as pasta and rice are the obvious starting places in terms of what to stock but don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. We have set up a deli counter which eliminates a lot of plastic packaging and we sell a lot of fresh produce. Also, look at trying to work with local producers and farmers. This helps cut carbon emissions, keeps money in the local community and improves rural-urban links.  For example, we source our crisps from local farmers. We contacted our local oil producer / potato crisp supplier to provide us with package free crisps. These are now delivered from Staffordshire in reusable containers that we exchange. The opportunities to become more sustainable is endless, you just need to think outside the box. We are always wanting to obtain the best possible quality and unique products for our customers so we will try and source our stock locally if we can


Getting the correct equipment in your store will help with customer experience. From our own experiences, we have stayed away from using jars for most products. Customers seem to be put off taking tops off the containers and using scoops. For our dried goods, evidence pointed to the installation of gravity bins. They are easier for the customer to use and are more appealing. For us, HL Display offered us the quality of a product as well as an affordable price. We looked at numerous options, but HL’s use of recycled plastic in their bins, combined with the affordability made them the easiest choice for our food dispensers.    


-      Budget
-      Targeted Customer
-      Hygiene
-      Payment Methods
Photo/Video Credits: Dominika Kubalova
Photography Credits: Joanne Crawford
Video Music: