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A ‘Zero Waste’ Grocery Store Will Open in Portland Next Year

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NoPac Foods will have no plastic packaging on-site, relying heavily on compostable materials

NoPac Zero Waste will offer produce from the Pacific Northwest, free of plastic packaging
The produce section of local grocery chain New Seasons
Brooke Jackson-Glidden/EPDX

Southeast Portland will have a new place for plastic-free groceries starting in 2020. NoPac Foods will be a full-service grocery store with 100 percent compostable and recyclable packaging, making it 100 percent plastic-free.

NoPac Foods comes from Emily Robb, a mother of three who simply got sick of throwing away so much plastic. “I started getting into [the zero waste movement] through urban homesteading and cooking,” she says. “Our family also has a home in Hawaii, and just seeing the waste on the beaches and the plastic trash — Following the news, it’s depressing. I felt like, no one else is doing it, so why not?”

Robb has been working on NoPac for years, identifying and heavily researching every product she plans to stock. The majority of food in the store will come from the Pacific Northwest, with some exceptions: Things that don’t grow in the Pacific Northwest, like coffee or chocolate, will come from fair trade companies. All produce will come from pesticide-free farms, as well.

Beyond those basics, Robb also looks into fundamentals of each product: Did the people who made this get paid a fair wage? Is there damage happening to the crops? Are they tearing down rainforests? Take palm oil products, for instance — Palm oil is in almost everything, from lipstick to Nutella to instant noodles. It also, in many cases, causes massive deforestation in certain parts of the world. NoPac-brand beauty products will be completely palm-oil free, but other products — soaps or deodorant — can only use eco-safe, fair trade versions of those ingredients.

As for packaging, most of the products at NoPac will use a return-refill system: Customers can use sanitized containers that they can fill, pay a deposit for (or join the business’s membership program), and then return to the store to be re-sanitized and reused. Things that won’t fit in that sort of container — like meat — will use compostable materials that can go directly in the backyard compost pile, like paper. The company won’t use any ‘industrially compostable only’ packaging at all, considering the problems that arise with those sorts of materials.

Robb is still on the hunt for a location, but she’s set on Southeast Portland, east of Caesar Chavez; still, she doesn’t want that to be the only NoPac around. “In the long run, our plan is to grow so that we’ll be throughout the Pacific Northwest,” she says. “The model that I built is one that can be scaled and replicated. It’s important to me that this can grow to different food regions.” The first location, however, should open in spring 2020; until then, NoPac is hosting events to raise money and get to know the community. Stay tuned for updates.

Update August 19, 2019 at 10:27 a.m.
This story was updated to include more information about the grocery store’s packaging.

NoPac Foods [Official]
Palm Oil [WWF]

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