Shop local: Zero-waste converted milk float feeds Hackney
- Credit: Fearghal Corbett
A mobile, zero-waste shop has eliminated the need for approximately 5,500 typical supermarket plastic packs since it launched in Hackney in August.
The Topup Truck delivers ethically-sourced food and home supplies out of an old electric milk float to residents who fill up using their own containers.
While on furlough, founder Ella Shone made use of her background in food and sustainability to develop a business that would make it easier for people to shop without requiring single-use plastic packaging.
“At the heart of Topup Truck is sustainability, community and wellbeing,” said Ella.
“From laundry liquid to pasta to vegan pick‘n’mix, the range has been specially selected to help people convert their cupboards from plastic hell to minimal sustainable perfection.”
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Regular Topup Truck customer Jess Stockford said the truck connects “consumers with their food and where it comes from”, and also “stimulates other conversations about other sustainable community projects”.
It is “just a brilliant community asset”, she said, adding that “every neighbourhood should have one”.
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After Ella noticed a global resurgence in the use of disposables during the coronavirus pandemic, with the plastics industry lobbying for plastic ban pauses, she decided to show that there are alternatives to reduce unnecessary waste.
“We need to make sure we keep safe, but that doesn’t mean trashing the planet with single-use plastics,” the business owner said.
Keen Green podcast host Fearghal Corbett featured Topup Truck on an episode, saying: “As well as the environmental benefits, one thing I hadn’t appreciated until spending time with Topup Truck was how it can bring neighbours together.”
But Ella adds that, along with “bringing neighbourhoods together”, Topup Truck brings with it the further benefits of “supporting local, independent businesses, small ethical wholesalers, as well as Hackney-based suppliers, offering mostly organic, vegan produce”.
Like many businesses, Topup Truck has had to adapt to recent lockdown restrictions, introducing a pre-order system to reduce browsing and chatting time at the float.
This is supposed to be a key part of the experience, but Ella said: “I am [just] so unbelievably grateful that I am still open, and that people are still shopping with us.”
When restrictions lift, the entrepreneur is looking to partner with schools and nurseries to meet parents at collection time, with “hopes to inspire kids to be conscious of our impact on the planet”.
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