Méga Vrac, Montreal’s newest zero waste grocery store, hopes to make a mega difference in reducing the amount of waste Montrealers generate from packaging.
The 1,800-sq.-ft. store on Masson St. recently opened its doors in the city’s Rosemont neighbourhood. It was previously called Fou Délices, a bulk food store that opened last year, but co-owner Ahlem Belkheir decided to change its name and vocation.
“I saw there was a lot of waste, not only food waste, but in packaging,” says Belkheir, noting that the former store also sold packaged goods like maple syrup, honey and detergent. “I thought we had to do our best to find these products in bulk.”
Belkheir, who studied sustainable development while pursuing a Masters in Business at the Université du Québec à Montréal, decided to eliminate all packaged goods from the store.
Even before the store was transformed into Méga Vrac, people came in with their own containers, which “is what encouraged us to go toward zero waste. The demand was there.”
While it’s “very difficult” to find suppliers sensitive to environmental issues, Belkheir eventually found some local suppliers who could supply all the products she wanted.
Méga Vrac brings barrels or other containers to suppliers and fills them, thus eliminating packaging. The goal is to eliminate waste at its source. Along with products like spices, nuts, beans and dried fruit, the store sells liquid products like maple syrup, honey, oil, vinegar, environmentally-safe cleaning supplies and shampoos. Products like milk, eggs and cheese are coming soon.
“We’re making a list of products that customers would like us to order,” she says.
Belkheir says typical clients range in age from 20-to-40-years-old. Sometimes parents come with their children who have their own containers to fill, all of which translates into a bright future for the zero waste concept, she says.
Bulk food stores like Bulk Barn sell packaged goods and do not allow people to bring in their own containers, Belkheir notes. “We encourage people to come in with their own containers.”
Customers who bring their own containers get a 5% discount and the store sells reusable fabric bags made in Montreal and provides paper bags.
When they’re at the cash register, customers tell Belkheir that prices are 25% lower than equivalent packaged goods sold at groceries. “Customers don’t waste food because they only buy the quantities they need,” she adds.
While there are other zero waste grocery stores in the Montreal area, Belkheir doesn’t consider them as competition. She encourages all groceries and other retailers to go zero waste. “Our lives should become zero waste.”