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Ella Shone’s small electric truck once delivered milk, but now she drives it around London, selling groceries and household items without plastic packaging.
The 32-year-old bought her ‘booster truck’ last year after the first coronavirus lockdown got her thinking about innovative ways to reduce waste.
She has found a lot of demand for her service, with customers picking up dry groceries such as lentils or filling bottles in large vinegar or laundry detergent dispensers.
On a rainy day in May, the 32-year-old made eight stops in the booming Hackney district of north-east London.
“It’s very simple: it’s a bit like a go-kart ride,” she said of driving the truck, which has a top speed of 48 kilometers per hour.
But she admitted that the management could get “a bit bumpy”.
At one stop, three customers bought dried mango, pasta, raisins and shampoo.
The mobile store was created to bring “no-packaging” shopping to people’s doors, tapping into a growing demand for deliveries during stay-at-home restrictions.
“I felt there was a need to make it easier, to make it more accessible, more visible,” she said.
Still, she wasn’t immediately sure her idea was viable.
“When I started this I thought I was a little bit crazy about time off,” she admitted.
During the lockdown, Shone was on government-subsidized leave of absence from his sales work at a company producing sustainable condiments.
She decided to buy the truck with the money she had saved during the lockdown, wanting to provide a “community shopping experience”.
Truck deliveries started in August last year and customers can book a stop online.
Electric vehicles – commonly known as milk floats – were once commonly used by milkmen and women to deliver pint bottles of fresh milk to the doorstep of the house.
Customers sent them back for reuse, and Shone says his truck is eliciting a “nostalgic” reaction.
But it addresses very current concerns about plastic packaging, which disintegrates over time, creating pervasive microplastic pollution.
Activism targeting governments and businesses can help, she said, but added: “I think there is a lot to be done at the consumer level.”
– Pandemic awakening –
The UK is the world’s second largest producer of plastic waste per person behind the United States, according to Greenpeace.
A study published in January by Greenpeace and the Environmental Investigation Agency found that the UK’s 10 largest supermarket chains reduced their plastic use by just 1.6% in 2019, despite promises of change.
Shone is nonetheless optimistic about motivating people to reduce packaging waste.
“During the pandemic, there has been a bit of a backlash towards single-use (plastic) simply because people are afraid to reuse something that could lead to transmission of Covid-19,” she said.
“But against the grain, I think there has been a bit of a wake-up call in terms of environmental responsibility.”
In April, she raised £ 15,000 ($ 21,000) through a crowdfunding campaign, which allowed her to add more shelves to her float. She also quit her previous job.
Ultimately, Shone would like to see a ban on single-use plastic packaging.
“And the recycling infrastructure is pretty terrible as well.”
© 2021 AFP