Your refill and plastic-free shopping has avoided 4661 pieces of single-use plastic!

We’ve leapt forward into spring and made it through the first 3 months of the year. We wanted to let you know that you guys have avoided 4661 pieces of single-use plastic in that time!

This breaks down as avoiding 3038 pieces of single-use plastic packaging through refill shopping:

2629 pieces of single-use food packaging (including 100 packets of oats, 49 packets of brown rice, 45 packets of dates and 36 packets of granola!)

287 home cleaning plastic bottles (including 65 bottles of laundry and 22 spray bottles of multi surface cleaner!)

122 bathroom plastic bottles (including 50 bottles of shampoo/body wash and 40 bottles of hand wash!)

On top of this you have also avoided 1623 single use plastic items:

120 plastic kitchen sponges avoided by switching to our natural alternatives

A further 17 bottles of shampoo avoided through switching to shampoo bars

Another 57 bottles of body / hand wash avoided through switching to soap bars

1300 single-use plastic cotton buds avoided by switching to bamboo cotton buds

27 plastic toothbrushes avoided by switching to bamboo

31 plastic tubes of toothpaste avoided by switching to toothpaste tabs or the tooth soap

3 body sponges by switching to loofahs

20 plastic or aerosol deodorants avoided due to switching to our plastic free natural version

At least 6 plastic razors by switching to a safety razor

At least 13 rolls of cling film by switching to wax food wraps

At least 3 plastic disposable coffee cups by switching to a reusable version

At least 5 plastic disposable cutlery sets by switching to a reusable version

At least 21 plastic disposable straws by switching to a reusable version

A huge thank you from us for your support and organisation to switching to refill and plastic-free shopping, its when we do these numbers that we get super excited and motivated about what we do!

These numbers mean even more when you consider that since the beginning of the year there have been 2 known reports of dead whales washing up with substantial amounts of plastic in their stomachs and that a recent report done on British marine mammals found microplastics in each and every one. We desperately need to stop the plastic tide and the easiest way to do that is to avoid it!

Sperm Whale with 22 kgs in Sardinia

Curvier Beaked Whale with 40 kgs in Philippines

British Micro Plastic Study

Image from Stijn Dijkstra

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Monday Motivation : You make the difference!

January marked the 6 month anniversary of Incredible Bulk. We are so honoured to have customers that are interested in making a difference; living and acting in a way that will help protect our home. You are the ones that have taken a stand and refused to conform to the norms of our society that we now know are polluting the Earth at a staggering rate. Without you guys we wouldn’t be making a difference and for that we are truly grateful.

We know that refusing plastic takes a huge change in habits. We offer an alternative shopping experience both in terms of buying with your own reusable packaging that takes a degree of organisation and commitment and also that you have to embrace the elements when shopping with us - for all of you that have shopped with us on a mizzley day, a stormy day and even a snowy day - your commitment to making a difference blows our minds and is a huge source of motivation to keep going, improve what we offer and continue on the zero waste path.

This is a run down of what plastic you have avoided in the last 6 months, well done and thank you!

4959 single-use plastic food packaging (this is roughly 30kgs, enough to fill about 5 wheelie bins, its also the same amount of plastic waste that was found in a dead sperm whale in Australia)

1300 single-use plastic cotton buds

470 single-use plastic household cleaning bottles

397 single-use plastic shampoo, conditioner, body wash and hand wash bottles

368 plastic kitchen sponges

139 plastic toothbrushes

71 plastic or aerosol deodorants

53 single use oil and vinegar bottles

At least 3200 meters of plastic cling film

1500 meters of plastic dental floss

At least 64 single-use plastic straws, 30 disposable coffee cups, 19 disposable cutlery sets and 18 plastic water bottles

27 plastic tubes of toothpaste

At least 35 disposable plastic razors

17 plastic body sponges

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Tackling single-use plastic : 6605 pieces avoided in 2018

In our 4 months of being Incredible Bulk in 2018 we are excited to say that our customers have avoided a grand total of 6605 pieces of single-use plastic. We’re thrilled with this number and excited to see what 2019 will bring.

This number is made up of a great mix of items, the easiest to avoid when shopping with us is single-use food packaging, totalling 4452 pieces, including 377 cereal packets, 261 packets of rice and 106 packets of pasta. Next up is bathroom plastic totalling 1225 - this number does include 700 cotton buds! But also 344 shampoo / conditioner / body wash bottles, 135 toothbrushes and 46 floss containers which would’ve been 1380 meters of plastic floss that would’ve ended up in the bin, or worse down the loo. There is now 336 less kitchen sponges now out there with our customers making the switch to natural alternatives and at least 3120 meters of plastic cling film has been avoided with our customers buying beeswax wraps. At least 64 single-use plastic straws have been avoided and 18 water/drinks bottles. Our customers have also helped recycle 174 used coffee cups by buying the R Cup reusable coffee cup where each one is made from 6 used cups, and as R Cup says nothing is fully recycled until it is reused so its great to see those coffee cups finally being put to good use!

We want to say a huge thank you to all of our customers who have supported us this year and have made this possible and for those of you yet to come to the van we hope this inspires you and lets you know how we can all make a difference.

Image taken from the lovely Christmas card we received from the awesome Surfers Against Sewage

Image taken from the lovely Christmas card we received from the awesome Surfers Against Sewage

Organic September

September is organic month with the Soil Association, the UK’s largest organic certification body. This Saturday is the day to get involved with independent shops across the country showcasing their organic ranges. We thought it was the perfect time to explain why we think organic is important and let you know our own policy on organic produce when it comes to our product selection.

Here are some snippets from the Soil Association website we wanted to share:

Many people don’t realise almost 300 pesticides can be routinely used in non-organic farming and these are often present in non-organic food despite washing and cooking. Organic farming standards, on the other hand, don't allow any synthetic pesticides and absolutely no herbicides such as Glyphosate.

Organic farmers are permitted to use just 20 pesticides, derived from natural ingredients including citronella and clove oil, but only under very restricted circumstances. Research suggests that if all UK farming was organic, pesticide use would drop by 98%! This means that organic farms are a haven for wildlife and these toxic pesticides can’t make their way into the food chain and into us.

Organic farming has huge environmental benefits as well and not only reduces pollution but helps combat climate change.  If all UK farmland was converted to organic farming, at least 3.2 million tonnes of carbon would be taken up by the soil each year - the equivalent of taking nearly 1 million cars off the road.

Over half of Britain’s wildlife species have declined since 1970, and more than one in ten are currently facing extinction. Intensive farming practices have been identified as the primary drivers of these declines. 75% of UK butterfly species have declined in the past decade and eight of our 25 bumblebee species are threatened, with two already extinct!

Ground breaking research published in the British Journal of Nutrition has found significant nutritional differences between organic and non-organic farming. In 2014, the team at Newcastle University found organic crops are up to 60% higher in a number of key antioxidants than conventionally-grown ones.

From these 5 statements its clear to see why organic farming is so important but unfortunately (and understandably) there is still a price to pay for organic. We’ve found that organic produce is often twice the cost of non-organic and whilst the benefits of organic farming are clear, not everyone can afford to pay for organic products at this point.

At Incredible Bulk we strive to select organic over non-organic when we feel the price is affordable – this is a key part of making Incredible Bulk accessible. Our main aim is to provide people with an easy and convenient way to move towards zero waste; offering a way to avoid single-use plastic packaging and avoid waste going to land fill. Being an affordable option is key for us and we don’t want to price anyone out of being able to shop package free.

Our current food selection is 20% organic and we will always look to increase this where we can. As the Soil Association points out ‘Switching to just one extra organic item really can help contribute to changing our food & farming systems for the better. Demand for more organic food means more organic farms. More organic farms mean fewer pesticides, more wildlife and more animals raised under the very highest standards.’ We’re moving in the right direction, adding 3 new organic items for September: Chick Peas, Cocoa Powder and Spaghetti.

For more information check out Soil Association. You can catch us this Saturday at Porthtowan Market. #chooseorganic

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Zero Waste Week: Behind the scenes at Incredible Bulk

Its great to be helping people avoid waste when they shop with us, but the responsibility doesn’t end there – we also have a responsibility with the waste that we create. We manage to reduce waste by buying our stock in large bulk quantities but there is still an amount of waste that we end up with.

Our stock comes to us in a variety of forms, luckily mainly in large paper-based sacks or boxes that can be easily reused, composted or recycled but some products do still come in plastic. We look to avoid these where possible and we know all our suppliers are also working hard to reduce the amount of plastic packaging they use. To ensure this plastic waste doesn’t end up in landfill we have a few different processes in place.

For any plastic bags we are left with we work with a company called Terracycle. Terracycle is an innovative recycling company set up by Tom Szaky (if you haven’t read his book Revolution in a Bottle go grab a copy!) and they have developed zero waste solutions for difficult to recycle waste streams. We use their plastic zero waste box for all our plastic packaging, which is then sorted and melted down into small pellets which is then re-purposed into affordable, innovative products instead of being sent to landfill.

For our household cleaning products that come in large plastic containers we return these to the supplier who then reuses or recycles them.

These two are our more difficult to re-purpose or recycle items of waste we have come across to date, being a new business we may come across others in the future but we will keep you updated on these as and when they arise – we are looking to keep a waste jar for anything we don’t have a solution for and keep it in the jar until we do.

Any questions on our zero waste methods please do get in touch. 

To take part in zero waste week and for more info head to the website www.zerowasteweek.co.uk where you can pledge your one step towards reducing landfill waste.

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Zero Waste Week: What is zero waste and what does it mean to us at Incredible Bulk?

Today marks the start of Zero Waste Week set up by Rachelle Strauss in 2008. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the environmental impact of waste and looks to empower people to reduce their own waste. We thought it was a good opportunity to take a step back and look at our own zero waste journey and what it means to us as a business.

Zero waste has become a hot topic over the last decade and since that impactful final episode of Blue Planet 2 earlier this year, reducing waste (particularly plastic) has been on everyone’s mind. Our zero waste journey started 5 years ago while travelling. In a small café in Luang Prabang we were lucky enough to come across a viewing of Colin Beavan’s No Impact Man, originally released in 2009, based on his book released in the same year. The documentary followed Colin on his year long experiment with his family in New York to have zero impact on the environment. The documentary was honest and real, not polished or heavily edited and Colin’s passion and determination was an inspiration. We had both started to see the impact of plastic waste first hand, particularly when we were travelling to remote, seemingly ‘unspoilt’ islands in Indonesia. The combination of this experience and seeing this movie made the issue of waste and our impact on the planet real and tangible for us.

For Colin, the idea of zero waste for his experiment was ‘to go as far as possible and try to maintain as close to no net environmental impact.’ ‘Zero carbon - yes- but also zero waste in the ground, zero pollution in the air, zero resources sucked from the earth, zero toxins in the water…no environmental impact.’

He asked some difficult questions of the choices we all make that were hard to ignore:

‘How truly necessary are many of the conveniences we take for granted but that, in their manufacture and use, hurt our habitat? How much of our consumption of the planet's resources actually makes us happier and how much just keeps us chained up as wage slaves?’

And by analysing his waste, uncovered the issue of single-use packaging, which made us look at our own waste and packaging:

‘It was not trash per se that got me. It was the throwing away of things used for less than five minutes without so much as a thought before reaching for the exact same product to use for another five minutes before throwing that away, too.’

Following the documentary, we went on to read the book and from there more research followed. We came across Lauren Singer, found on Instagram as her famous handle Trash is for Tossers. Having a visual guide through Instagram was great and acted as an awesome reminder whenever scrolling through! Lauren defines zero waste as ‘No sending anything to landfill, no throwing anything in a trash can, nothing.’ Lauren also came to zero-waste living by becoming conscious of waste, seeing a fellow Environmental Studies classmate come to lunch with disposable water bottle, takeout containers and single-use bag, unintentionally harming the planet they were there to study and protect.

A further resource and inspiration came through Lauren as she sites Bea Johnson as an inspiration and resource on her own zero-waste journey and we’re sure if you’re interested in zero waste you would’ve heard of Bea and her famous 5 Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot; that helped her and her family reduce their waste year on year. In her first blog post on the 24th Dec 2009 she writes  ‘I am inspired to share my experience and open ground for discussion, after all we all play a part on this (endangered) earth. I have put my family on a waste diet for the past 12 months, analyzing whatever comes in contact with the bottom of our one home trash can and slowly trying to get it as close to zero waste as possible. In this past year, I have learned to shop, refuse (what is given to me), reduce, reuse, and recycle as little possible (for only such a small percentage of our trash is actually recycled).’

So it was these 3 that became our founding mentors of what it means to be zero waste and how we came to implement changes in our personal lives, starting where they all started – becoming aware of our waste and looking for ways to reduce it.

We created Incredible Bulk to give people an easier option to reduce the amount of waste they create – that’s the front end of the business.  Equally the back end of the business also needs to be in line with these values. We are very aware of how we manage the waste that the business creates (when we buy our products from our suppliers for example) and make sure that where possible nothing gets discarded or goes to landfill.  It often takes more time, more money and is definitely not as easy or convenient – many people on a zero waste journey will be able to relate to this, but as Colin says in No Impact Man - ‘whether it’s human nature or industrial systems that need to change, when it comes to saving the world, the real question is not whether I can make a difference. The real question is whether I am willing to try.’

To take part in zero waste week and for more info head to the website www.zerowasteweek.co.uk where you can pledge your one step towards reducing landfill waste.

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Kitting out the Bulkmobile

Once we had brought the Bulkmobile home it was time to turn her into our zero waste shop. We wanted to kit out the van in the most responsible way, taking environmental and business concerns into consideration.

We started by looking into shelving and opted for a custom made shelving system in hardwood plywood. Although a new resource that requires industrial processing, plywood is considered a greener, sustainable hardwood option. Making plywood means being able to utilise more from felled logs as it's mostly made with thin sheets of wood sliced from logs that wouldn’t make very good solid lumber, therefore utilising something that may otherwise be wasted. The shelves were CNC machined and designed in a way to limit waste from a single plywood sheet. Additional shelves needed were made by us (Gemma's dad to be more accurate!) from available off-cuts. 

Earthborn paint was our paint of choice for our shelving as they offer a range of environmentally friendly paint; free from acrylics, oils and vinyl. We went for a grey called Kissing Gate in their Eggshell that's washable (good for food hygiene), virtually VOC free and carries the EU Ecolabel. 

Choosing secondhand where available we found shop baskets to use to display our lifestyle products and our weighing station at the back of the van is made from an Ikea shelf bought from a friend of Gemma's who relocated abroad. We then topped it with a worktop made from recycled yogurt pots, this came with an added bonus of also being a leftover off-cut! We also used this to create our serving shelf. 

We needed to have a sink on-board for hygiene and went for one made from plastic, we chose this over a stainless steel option due to its space-saving design and we are happy that we can utilise a used plastic bottle to hold the waste drainage.

For the containers holding our products we had to opt for plastic. Glass was just too heavy and also a health and safety risk due to potential breakages while driving along. We decided to partner with Addis as their container range is made from food-safe, BPA free, polypropylene which is easy to recycle come the end of the products life-cycle. They are a reputable UK based company, with sound Environmental and Packaging Policies in place. Their products are designed and manufactured to last, with a 10 year guarantee so we hope we'll be using them for many years.   

Outside branding was our final decision for the van. We researched to find the greenest vinyl available and came across 3M Envision wrap. This vinyl film is non-PVC being made from a bio-based material. Its phthalate-free, contains no added chlorine or halogens and uses 58% less solvents than conventional films, eliminating potential hazards to the environment at the end of use. 

So there you have it, a little tour inside our van, if you haven't seen it for yourself yet check out our locations and come and see our little mobile zero waste shop! 

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Fuelling the Incredible Bulk

After deciding that we would be making our zero waste shop mobile, our discussions quickly turned to the topic of fuel. As an environmentally conscious business we knew that our fuel choice would be an important one and so we took the time to research all the options available.

Of course, our initial thoughts were of a zero-emission, electrically-powered van (that or a cool old-school Citroen!). However, the electric vans available at the time of our research either did not have the capacity to hold all of the bulk products we planned to provide, or were unavailable to us due to the costs involved (even when considering the Government grants). We also had concerns around the battery ranges when considering the distances that we would be travelling across Cornwall, the weight of product going into the van, and also available charging points. Bearing all this in mind it became apparent that a zero emissions van would sadly not be a viable option for us.

Our attention then moved to alternative fuels such as CNG (compressed natural gas) and hydrogen, both offering environmental benefits when compared to diesel. However, availability was proving to be an issue. We struggled to find a supply of bio-methane CNG or hydrogen available in Cornwall. We also considered LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) where availability was less of an issue but our research told us that while it offers a CO2 saving when compared to petrol, the CO2 per km emissions are similar to diesel.

These findings finally lead us to consider petrol vs diesel. In spite of the recent negative publicity around diesel, our research showed that whilst petrol vans have come along way, they are more suited to city-based businesses with lower mileage, with diesel vans being more fuel efficient than petrol when covering larger distances and with heavier loads.  We ruled out older, emission-heavy diesel vans (no cool old-school Citroen for us) and instead looked into newer vans that had the Euro 6 engine, with Euro 6 legislation helping to reduce harmful gases in the air and combat climate change.

Having considered all of the fuel options in detail whilst also factoring in the requirements to run a reliable mobile shop we finally decided on a Peugeot Boxer 2.0 BlueHDi. Peugeot's latest generation of fuel and environmentally efficient Diesel engines include a three stage cleansing process specifically targeting the pollutants of diesel combustion, removing hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide, reducing nitrogen oxides by up to 90% and eliminating 99.95% of particulates.  

Although a zero-emission vehicle proved not to be a viable option for our business, we believe our final choice continues to reflect our commitment to the environment. Our engine emits 163g CO2 per km driven currently but we are looking into a Bio-diesel that will help reduce this by 28% (tailpipe emissions are unaffected but as a renewable fuel made from used cooking oil the saving comes from looking at the fuel life cycle). At present there is not a supply in Cornwall but we are continuing to look into this and will keep you posted.

And finally...we are following up with local Cornwall initiatives to plant native trees to help off-set our CO2 output - lookout for updates and more information in future Incredible Blog posts!      

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