Munich: Zero Waste
Organic supermarkets may introduce a larger audience to sustainable organic produce and thus spare the environment, but do not necessarily help to reduce the amount of one-way packaging, save plastics. As a conscious consumer you will without doubt prefer non-prepackaged fruit and veges, available from all organic groceries, supermarkets and market boothes, and hand your bag over the bakery counter, making it verbally clear that you do not need a paper bag, to avoid paper waste when buying bread and rolls.
You're also safe if you restrict your shopping of dairy products, juices and soft drinks to returnable glass bottles. Some organic shops (such as Vollcorner) offer a small selection of wine in deposit bottles.
Starting in 2017 the more dedicated organic supermarket chains have been introducing measures to reduce packaging and allow customers to bring their own containers to fill with selected goods. Unless stated otherwise all shops mentioned in this post will help you out with clean and empty reusable glass jars or organic cotton bags which you -- depending on the shop -- can either buy or lend if you forgot to bring your own.
- Zero waste life style, washing and cleaning
- Loose weight convenience stores
- Supermarket chains with refill stations and counters
- Neighbourhood groceries and market stalls
- Artisanal bakeries and butchers
- Coffee and food to take away
Farewell to plastics
The zero-waste pioneer in town is Naturlieferant, usually referred to as Plastikfreie Zone, and recently renamed to Der plastikfreie Laden. At this pleasant intimate shop in Haidhausen near Max-Weber-Platz you won't find any plastic item but a lot of sustainable alternatives. The focus of the shop is an ever increasing range of sustainable household items, ranging from tooth brushes and toilet paper to glasses, lunch boxes and jute strings, but you may also shop a selection of food items like potatoes, pulses, nuts, flour, jelly-gums or the best Indian pepper in town. If you forget to bring your own jars your purchase will be packed in paper bags, or you can choose from re-used glass containers for free. You may also refill washing-up liquid, shampoo and liquid laundry detergent.
In March 2019 a tiny neighbourhood shop specializing in the latter opened in the Glockenbach neighbourhood: At Abgefüllt & unverpackt ("bottled and unpacked") the singer of the Munich-based band "Cat Sun Flower" warmly welcomes customers and passers-by and helps to (re)fill empty bottles with organic liquid household detergents. At the time of writing this shop was the only one in Munich selling washing powder by weight. In addition there are eco-friendly dishwasher tabs, body and hair soaps, fairly traded natural facecream in returnable glasses, towels, as well as upcycled and fairly traded bags and toiletry accessories.
Three years before, on February 20th, 2016 the city's first zero-waste supermarket Ohne ("without") opened its doors in the neighbourhood of Maxvorstadt. Pleasantly furnished with wooden benches and self-made dispensers this modern version of a generously spaced mom-and-pop store gives you a pleasant vacation from brands and logos. It is offering bread, rolls and sweet pastries from a local artisanal bakery, dairy products and vegan alternatives in returnable bottles, a small selection of fresh fruit and greens, spices and dried herbs, a huge selection of pasta, legumes, flour and cereals, but also baking powder, coffee, tahin, honey, locally distilled gin, vodka and bitter, oil, toothpaste tablets and assorted solid shampoos and soap bars.
There are also refill stations for washing detergents, cleansers and liquid hair and body washes, and you can shop from an ever increasing range of household and bodycare products (including environment-friendly condoms which are the only items in shop prepackaged in non-reusable wrapping). Preserves (like mustard, pestos and pickles) are sold prepackaged in reusable glass containers.
Your shopping starts by measuring the weight of your glasses, boxes and bags on the scales next to the entrance door. Now you can fill them from the dispensers and finally pay by net weight.
This crowd-funded supermarket is strictly organic and vegetarian. When the shop is crowded waiting time at the till is a little longer than you might expect, but take your time and have a coffee and home-made cake in the small cafe corner. Lunch is served Monday through Friday from 11 am.
Inhabitants and passers-by in the neighbourhood of Haidhausen will be happy to learn that a second branch opened January 23, 2019 a few steps from Rosenheimer Platz S-Bahn station. This shop is also equipped with a proper espresso machine, but does neither offer lunch nor fresh fruit and veges. For the time being there's also no refill for liquid shampoos. In return the clean and pleasantly light shop keeps open longer on saturday evenings.
Supermarket chains to follow
In autumn 2016 the local Vollcorner supermarkets received an official permit by the Munich Department of Public Order (Kreisverwaltungsreferat) to fill their customers' jars and boxes with cheese, antipasti, processed meat products or cake. (If you forget to bring containers you can also get returnable glass jars for a deposit.) The Basic supermarket chain followed in summer 2017, and independent convenience stores often have done so anyway. So take appropriate containers with you when you go out to shop for food.
To avoid misunderstandings it is advisable to clearly point to your box before placing your order at the sales counter and tell the staff to tape the receipt to it. Otherwise you may end up not sparing any waste: In the beginning the staff at the Basic butcher's disk would use the sheet of plastic-covered paper they'd usually wrap the purchase with to hand it over to you, along with the receipt taped onto the paper bag they otherwise would have used as outer packaging. In the mean time they got used to the procedure but were ordered to decline customer requests to buy meat this way. So you'll better find an artisanal organic butcher's shop or your nearest Herrmannsdorfer grocery to buy meat in your own box, e.g. the one on Max-Weber-Platz. Here you will also be rewarded with a 4 cents discount per saved packaging.
At Basic self-service cafes you may lend a Recup coffee cup for a deposit which you can return at any other shop participating in the retour scheme. Dispensers reliably offering a selection of pasta, nuts, dried fruit, sweets, and grains can be found in all branches I've visited so far, but the number of goods may vary from basic to covering most of your store cupboard except for dried herbs and spices, coffee and tea.
Basic supermarkets selling toiletries and household chemicals like the one in Neuhausen may have dispensers for detergents of the eco-friendly Sodasan brand as well as for shampoo and shower gel. These dispensers can be driven in two modes: If they allow you to decide how much to refill (like at the Basic Bogenhausen) you must either come with an empty original bottle or buy one the first time. Your purchase will be weighted at the checkout and the weight of the original bottle will be detracted. When I complained the staff explained to me that a label with correct chemical declaration was required by law, hence I wasn't allowed to refill bottles without or with deviating bar codes.
Prior to April 2019 you could take one of the empty bottles from the shelf and scan its label before tapping the standard volumes the choosen detergent was sold by to your own bottle. This way you couldn't refill smaller than the original bottles and were obliged to make sure you had at minimum a 1 l or 2 l bottle with you (500 ml for shampoos). After refill a label with the correct declaration was printed out for you. It's likely that some Basic branches still operate according to this mode, but to my knowledge there's currently none in Munich.
To buy dry goods most of the Basic branches have prominently placed scales where you measure the tax weight of your containers before filling them. The scales will print out a receipt which you must hand in at the cash desk for tax weight detraction. Some branches may still follow the scheme formerly employed at the one near Isartor where you were expected to fill provided scaled measuring jugs from the dry-goods dispensers, pay, and refill the content into the packaging you brought along (which was quite tricky as funnels were not provided). In this case you were not allowed to use your own containers for loose-weight dried fruit from the cardbox displays in the green-grocery section.
Some Basic branches like the Basic Bogenhausen also offer freshly ground nut butters. Until recently the latter also had a refill station for frying and salad oils as well as tea and coffee dispensers but unfortunately no longer.
For refilling fresh milk from the grass-fed cows of the Nirschlhof farm in nearby Grafing take your milk bottles to the recently opened Vollcorner supermarket near Theresienwiese which also has a butcher's counter and a lunch cafe. It's the same milk as used in True&12 ice-cream.
Vollcorner supermarkets also stock package-free toiletpaper.
Neighbourhood groceries and farmers' markets
In Haidhausen the Lebascha neighbourhood grocery offers to fill all loose-weight products (cakes and bread, eggs, cheeses, olives, olive oil, jelly gums and liquorice -- only the latter is not organic) in bottles, jars and boxes you bring along. Ask for a deposit box (1 or 3 EUR according to size) in case you forgot to bring your own, and make sure to return it thoroughly cleaned. When buying eggs don't forget your own container as there will be a small surplus for a cardboard one filled on the counter. Also for the olive oil refill you must bring a clean bottle yourself (but you have to wait for it until autumn 2018 since the 2017 harvest has been sold out).
Household chemicals can be refilled at the Echt Bio Markt in Neuschwabing.
Once, sometimes twice a week farmers' markets are installed in many Munich neighbourhoods. Loose fruits and veges prevail here, and boothes selling organic produce (watch carefully for "bio" and "demeter" logos) will usually fill bread, cakes and pastries, antipasti, meat and dairy products into the containers you present. Notably at the boothes of the Tagwerk co-operative and the Hofbäckerei Steingraber you may be surprised to see that you're not the only one coming with her own boxes and jars. On Saturday mornings you can find them next to the West-facing entry of Mariahilf church, in the neighbourhood of Au where all boothes (except the French fish monger) in the market block next to the church, right below the carillon, are organic. If you feel adventurous on Thursday afternoons take the urban train S7 in direction Aying/Höhenkirchen-Siegertsbrunn/Kreuzstraße (or a bike ride) to the suburb of Neubiberg and pay a visit to the communal organic market on the pleasant premises of the Umweltgarten eco park, a true oasis within ugly suburbanity, with a small zoo, popular not only among kids. On Thursdays there's also an all-day market at Rotkreuzplatz. As on Mariahilfsplatz about half the boothes here are organic, though scattered all over the market area, with a cluster in direction Nymphenburger Straße.
Artisanal bakeries and butchers
Meat lovers will be happy to learn that Munich, the home of Weißwurst sausages and Leberkäse, still has an independent family-run organic butcher's shop: The Biometzgerei Pichler in Haidhausen does not only offer these Munich specialities to buy home or to eat on the spot but will happily fill your boxes with all kinds of meat cuts, sausages, cured and processed meat (both, German and Italian style), including tongues, ox tails, offal and other low-graded parts of the slaughtered animals, allowing you to follow the nose-to-tail principle. They also have a proper cheese counter and offer lunch on weekdays. If you are in the Maxvorstadt, the Pichler family also runs the meat counter within the Landmann's supermarket which offers lunch items to take away and often has pickled herrings and other traditional German fish preserves.
At the Munich branch of the Dachau-based family-run organic bakery Gürtner opposite the Lebascha grocery mentioned above in Haidhausen the staff is also used to fill cakes, rolls and bread into boxes or bags handed over the counter. They mill the flour slowly using a Zentrofan wholefood mill resulting in wholemeal croissants tasting fresher and almost as light as those baked with white flour. If you come here for an organic coffee or lunch break don't expect wonders from the automatic coffee machine and insist on using your mug if you order coffee to take along. For lunch the bakery offers readily prepared sandwiches or "Butterbrezn" (buttered pretzl). There's another Gürtner branch on the Pasinger Viktualienmarkt near the Pasing train station.
Coffee and food to take away
Most cafes serving organic coffee are sufficiently aware of the coffee beaker waste issue that they will fill your own cup without hesitation. Some like Die Kaffee-Küche, the Neulinger bakeries and the Basic self-service lunch bars will even give you a small discount for sparing the environment. There is an increasing number taking part in the recup.com retour scheme, among others the Neulinger bakeries or Siggis coffee bar and restaurant.
Most of the eateries reviewed here will fill your food into the boxes you provide for take-away as long as you make this clear before they start their usual routine which still means one-way packaging. Sushi to take away is available from Sushiya, and they will happily accept your bento boxes with your order.
2019-05-26 17:00:00 [Munich, Neubiberg, Au, Haidhausen, Maxvorstadt, Pasing, organic, vegetarian, zero_waste, unverpackt, cafe, grocery, market, supermarkets, lunch, bakeries, butcher, bodycare, household, sushi] Link