The “zero waste” trend appeared in California in the 1980s. Behind this somewhat abstract concept hides a simple approach to consume more sustainably, reducing almost all of our waste, particularly by privileging re-usable and package-free products. In 2021, this trend exploded in France. As an example, package-free grocery stores exceeded a billion euros in turnover and enjoyed over 40% growth. Now, major supermarkets are having to dedicate 20% of their floorspace to package-free products.

For a small business like a bakery, the transition to zero waste is a sizeable challenge that requires effort, but it’s not impossible! Recently we have seen concept bakeries that have set themselves the zero waste challenge, like the Les Frères Blavette bakery-patisserie in Paris. Alongside eliminating packaging and reducing waste, here are a few techniques for your bakery that will take you nearer to zero waste..

A reusable bread bag

Every year in France, 568kg of household waste are thrown away by every person (source: ADEME) and over 10 million tons of food are wasted (according to France Nature Environnement). Bread is one of the foods that is thrown away the most every day. To avoid that, more and more bakeries are adapting and offering new alternatives with the aim of reducing their waste and also avoiding wastage. The common objective being to reduce the impact on the environment by adopting simple techniques. Moving to zero waste is a value-added initiative for a business, for customers and also for the planet!

Packaging represents a huge part of our waste and can often be replaced or even removed entirely. This is the technique adopted by package-free stores. They no longer offer single-use packaging. Instead, these stores ask customers to come with their own containers, boxes, jars and bags. Some also offer deposit containers that can be returned to the store and used again. This new method of buying is growing all the time!

For bakeries, the zero waste target can absolutely be reached. It is possible to ask customers to bring their own packaging and bread bags, or to sell fabric bags and therefore eliminate the traditional paper bag. In some bakeries, when customers bring their own packaging, they are rewarded through a loyalty system. They get a free pastry after a certain number of purchases. These sort of little actions encourage customers and they often really enjoy them. Like a package-free store, it is also possible to use deposit packaging with the aim of removing cardboard containers for cakes and patisseries.

The other problem in the zero waste approach is the question of unsold items which very often end up in the bin. Today there are many solutions to avoid wastage. You can offer customers “surprise baskets” with unsold items and sell them at reduced prices. This is the service offered by the app Too Good To Go. Simply find out the number of baskets available every day on the app. Users can then book their basket and collect it before the bakery closes. Customers can enjoy several products at a lower price, the baker does not create waste and has not produced a product at a total loss.

In terms of stale bread, some bakeries sell them to customers as food for their pets. A way of recognising loyal customers at a very low cost. You can also get involved with local breweries that use the starch in the bread to make their beers. All these techniques will help give your bread a second lease of life!

Finally, to add value to your unsold items, one last solution is to give them to charities. But be careful, some so-called “sensitive” products cannot be donated. This is the case of products made with cream or meat… Now you have the techniques for your zero waste initiative, all you have to do is start. The planet will be very grateful!