Duo opens zero waste food store in Leeds Kirkgate Market

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Aimée McAlpine and Ian Thursfield are the co-owners of the eco-friendly, zero packaging, zero waste food store ‘The Jar Tree’.

The idea for the store came about after the duo grew increasingly frustrated at how difficult it was to maintain sustainable lifestyles when supermarkets used excessive packaging.

Ian, 30, from Armley, said: “I did an online shop and one little can of coke came in a plastic container, in a carrier bag wrapped in another bigger carrier bag. It’s massively excessive.”

Aimée, 32, from Morley, added: “Supermarkets use so much non-recyclable packaging. I don’t see why fruit and veg has to be packaged - you can’t get a cucumber without plastic for love nor money.”

Located in Leeds city centre, the new addition to Kirkgate Market operates under a ‘weigh-and-pay’ system. Customers choose how much they want to buy and take it away in their own containers, eliminating the need for wasteful packaging. They also sell household items, toiletries, containers and cleaning products.

“I got into the zero waste movement last summer. Sourcing some stuff in Leeds was okay but there wasn’t anywhere to get things like dried food. I joined groups like ‘West Yorkshire Change to Zero Waste’ and ‘Zero Waste Leeds’ but people kept recommending shops that were miles away. There’s no way I’m going all the way to Huddersfield just for rice. We needed somewhere in Leeds,” said Aimée.

The two entrepreneurs started a crowdfunding page and raised the £1,000 needed to set up the business.

Aimée said: “Kirkgate Market launched new units for food stalls specifically and everything just fell into place. The rise of the zero waste movement, the revamping of the market and the increasing demand for organic food - right time, right place. It’s ideal being in the city centre. It’s a meeting point and the best way to spread the zero waste movement.”

The Jar Tree is now open in Kirkgate market next to the Food Hall.