How Zero Waste Will Change The Future



I know what you're thinking. Here we go again, another group of 'experts' assuming they know all about Zero Waste starting to preach how bad everyone is behaving, while munching on their sandwich packaged in single-use plastic, wearing the clothes they didn't get second-hand, waiting for the Diesel fueled Uber to take them home to their apartment where trash, PET and cardboard piles are waiting to be brought to the garbage containers. What a bunch of hypocrites. 

I get it. Which is why I want to make it very clear that we're not in church and nobody's preaching, because nobody's perfect, and here at Wayste we're far from it. All we're trying to do is to share the Zero Waste concept with the "less-than-perfect" of us and invite anyone and everyone to follow their curiosity and check out this new way of doing their groceries plastic-free (although that's only a very small part of the Zero Waste lifestyle of course, but we'll get there).

If you're new to this topic, let me say this: Nobody expects you to turn your life upside down from one moment to the next. We haven't, so why should you? Behaviour and mindset changes take time, and the thing we need to focus on is not how much we're improving, but that we're improving at all. 

The story behind the packaging-free online grocery store Wayste

Let's start with a little story that happened during the autumn of 2018 in the center of Zurich. After having quit our jobs in July my cofounder and I had been working on a few business ideas that would give our lives more meaning than our previous jobs had been able to. Because we had no salaries and were living off our savings, we were regularly sneaking into University buildings that offered 'study rooms' to students and worked from there for the better part of our days, using our Wifi access from our recent times as students to get things done online.

During those months we had to save money wherever we could and working in the city for most of the time (in our naive minds) meant we couldn't cook our lunch, so we 'had to' buy ready-made food from the grocery store across the street. Every day we used to eat salads and sandwiches wrapped in plastic, followed by a delicious orange juice in a plastic bottle. And every day we would throw that trash into the bin like we were on repeat.

We didn't like it, but we didn't know better. And like anybody else who's doing the same today, I don't believe this made us bad human beings. 

How we discovered the zero waste movement

During that time I was regularly traveling back and forth between Zurich and Copenhagen to visit my girlfriend - by plane, the worst behaviour environmentally speaking. Again, I could've found a more sustainable option, but that would've meant seeing my girlfriend less or spending more money and time on traveling (by train for example).

During one of my stays in the beautiful capital of Copenhagen I realised my girlfriend was storing flour, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, pasta, beans, lentils and all sorts of products in glass jars instead of the usual plastic packaging you can find in any conventional store. After some questions I realised that there were actual shops where you could get your products unpackaged.

I immediately loved the idea. This Zero Waste concept could solve my packaging problem, looked so much better AND was healthier (because micro-plastics, you know). 

Why we started with Wayste

So here I was, discovering something completely new to me and discussing it with my cofounder who immediately joined in on the excitement. But why had we never come in contact with it before?

To answer this, we started talking to people we thought would know more about it. One interview partner became ten interview partners became 100 interview partners, until we had figured it out.

We loved the reason behind the Zero Waste movement. If there's no waste, there's less damage to the planet. And that was something we could stand behind. But the biggest reason why only so few were switching to this new mindset was simple: It's way too inconvenient to fit into the busy and hectic lives us average people live today.

And here's where it's important not to preach but to be honest: We want to eat healthy, do sports, be productive at work, spend time with friends, spend time with the family, spend time in nature, discover new places, live new experiences, fix our teeth, start meditating, take care of the kids, use our bicycles more, use our cars less, be less addicted to our phones, etc.

There are so many things pulling us in 1001 different directions and changing our shopping behaviour by having to visit three different stores and think about bringing our own packaging to buy everything we need can be overwhelming.

So, the concept worked but was too inconvenient. And since we wanted to apply our experience in building startups for something 'good' (whatever that means), we decided to make shopping packaging-free more convenient. We decided to bring Zero Waste to the mass market.

Some facts about waste or why this topic is urgent

Being a rich country comes with its flaws. If you have money you spend money, and since most things we buy are new and at some point become useless it makes sense that we create a lot of waste. 

Let me draw a mental picture of how much waste we create, because I don't believe that the number 716 kg of waste per person per year (the highest in the world) in Switzerland would mean anything to you.

We just visited one of the five garbage incineration facilities in Zurich where we saw what happens with our garbage. Imagine a hole in the form of a bathtub. Now make that bathtub 30 meters deep (that's a 10 story building), 10 meters wide and 60 meters long (roughly speaking). Playing around in that massive bathtub is a crane that can carry 2 - 3 tonnes of trash, that's like carrying 2 - 3 VW Golfs at the same time. My point is, the thing is huge.

Here comes the bomb: This bathtub that collects the trash of one fifth of the population of Zurich and a few towns around it fills up to the max every 10 days. Over the whole year, this facility burns around 230'000 tonnes of garbage, that's 230'000 VW Golf that are burning - get the picture?

Seeing this blew our minds and made it easier to understand how much waste (and lots of it is packaging waste) we're all creating. But there's hope!

What Wayste is about

We want Wayste to be the most convenient place to get all of the products you want, packaging-free. We believe in balance, so we're about building a business that combines growth with sustainability.

Growth because we want to help as many people as possible buy local and organic products packaging-free. Our goal is to build a business that spans across countries and connects consumers everywhere to local, healthy and unpackaged products for their homes.

Sustainability because we don't want to compromise nature for profits, as many companies do. Whatever we do, we always try to think in the long term. And in the long term the only thing that makes sense is to be ecologically sustainable. It will take time and a lot of work, but we believe it's worth it. For us, and for the next generation.

We're still young and learning every day. We are working hard to improve and hope to get your support along the way.

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  • Isabelle

    Very good initiative ! I like the idea to make unpackaged food available for a large amount of people and to make it easier for all of us 😊

  • Christina

    And one more comment: It is much more important how we produce food and which food we eat and here I recommend ortoloco.ch a local food cooperation. And I also want to mention that your prices are quite high, like Brüderhof.ch where the oatflakes in a 5 kg paper bag cost 5.8 CHF a kilo whereas yours cost 9 CHF a kilo.

  • Christina

    I think it will be great to go zero waste without the hassle to go to different shops. And if people use it properly and actually look out for their food and don’t waste it or let it go off, the better. But plastic waste is actually not our top problem right now and that’s makes me sad, because people with awareness spent quite a lot of time with it, instead of focussing on the important things.

    a) climate change is mainly due to three causes: the way we heat our buildings, the way we drive our cars and fly and what we eat.

    b) we should rather spend the little time we have (or the little time people are willing to spent on these topics) on focussing on one of the above, like writing letters to politicians, going to protests, forming a protest, changing the heating system …

    And I’m scared that people start throwing more food away because it goes of faster, if not packed in a good way. That will cause even more CO2.

    So to sum it up. I have the feeling that this movement keeps people busy and distracts them from the real problem climate change. Because a changed climate can not be changed back anytime soon, but we could (maybe) clean our oceans. Right now the garbage is even used for energy production, which is not good, but at least it is used twice.

    Anyway, I hope that you guys still use some of you time to fight climate change, because without a stabe climate a lot of the good food – packed or unpacked will not be available anymore. And rise awareness that only use food is good food.


  • Susanne

    We are looking at two different things here. Personal behaviour and a business idea. The personal behaviour is questionable – there I’m in line with Alex’ comment. The business idea I like. I have seen stores like this in a couple of larger cities already. The customers need a lot of willingness for planning. There will most likely be not much convenience. Saving the planet will not be convenient.

  • Pietro

    Alex: best comment ever.

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