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. Since 2021 we also have seen the gradual arrival of dry food, preserves and spreads in returnable glasses formerly only used for yogurts.
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.
- Loose weight convenience stores
- Zero waste life style, washing and cleaning
- Supermarket chains with refill stations and counters
- Neighbourhood groceries
- (Farmers') Markets
- Artisanal bakeries and butchers
- Tea shops
- Coffee and food to take away
Package-free food and household necessities
On February 20th, 2016 the city's first crowd-funded vegetarian 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, spices and dried herbs, a huge selection of pasta, legumes, flour and cereals, but also baking powder, coffee, tahin, honey, oil, toothpaste tablets and assorted solid shampoos and soap bars. Most sweets, toothpaste tablets, protein powder, matcha and other expensive products the staff will fill into your containers at the till.
There are also refill stations for washing detergents, cleansers and liquid hair and body washes, and you can shop from (currently quite basic) range of household and bodycare products. Preserves (like mustard, pestos and pickles) are sold prepackaged in reusable glass containers, and increasingly also in deposit glasses. Since 2022 the range of goods has also been including ready-made convenience food like vegetarian bolognese and curry in retour glasses. The sale of fresh greens and fruits was discontinued.
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. Be kind and wash your hands when entering the shop, for extra hygiene.
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.
A second branch opened January 23, 2019 in the neighbourhood of Haidhausen, a few steps from Rosenheimer Platz S-Bahn station. This shop is also equipped with a proper espresso machine, and offers snacks – you can have a sandwich, a slice of cake or a buttered pretzl. It's usually less crowded which also explains why you may find it closed for some days during school holidays, especially in the summer.
The pandemic spring and summer of 2020 saw a blossoming of zero-waste groceries in the South and West of town: Approximately at the same time as the Westend got its neighbourhood shop, Servus Resi opened in Obersendling right before the lockdown in March 2020, in a non-descript middle of no-where near the Siemenswerke former industrial area. But don't let you fool from the uninviting environment at a noisy car road – what you'll find here is a busy neighbourhood gem nicely furnished in light wood, with a superb selection of dried herbs and spices aside the usual dry food, and a nicely arranged selection of household items. The greengrocery section is rather limited – local organic apples and potatoes in late autumn 2020 –, and there are no dairy or other food requiring cooling, but the shop offers both, liquid body care products and household chemicals from refill stations. Everything is supervised by the friendly shop-owner, Chrissy (not Resi) herself, and if you wish to get in touch with people from the neighbourhood take the burden to come here even from other parts of town.
In Laim Nebenan unverpackt ("package-free next door") followed in summer 2020. The latter is organised as a co-operative (though the location next to a co-operative bank is purely accidental) and sports a small neighbourhood coffee place. They offer a slightly bigger selection of dry food than the Ohne shops, fresh fruit and veges, but less dried herbs and spices and no spirits. You can however buy wine and their selction of condiments and preserves in one-way glasses have the effect that you can do all the regular daily shopping here in one place if you don't come with more advanced expectations.
Half a year earlier, in January, 2020 another co-operative, Deine Alternative ("your alternative") in Zorneding, opened on the premises of the former Raiffeisen co-operative bank, just a few steps from the urban train station. When you get inside you will however immediately forget about its past as a bank, the shop is carefully and pleasantly decorated, with wooden furniture and equipped with a proper Italian coffee machine for a break in between. Most of the often local produce sold here is organically certified or at minimum sustainably produced, though it would be nice if conventional loose-weight products were clearly marked. In addition to the gravity bins and containers with dry food there's a decent selection of dried herbs and spices, sweets, bread, some confectionery, a small selection of fresh organic greens and veges, cheese and milk from the Nirschlhof organic farm (but interestingly enough no whole-meal flour or oils, vinegars or spirits by the litre). In a separate room you can buy toiletries, household chemicals and items supporting a zero-waste lifestyle. Everyone is welcome, but members of the co-operative pay less. If you live in the municipality of Zorneding you can pre-order a daily changing lunch dish to take home on weekdays or a covid-19 emergency food box that will be delivered home for those in quarantine.
The neighbourhood of Trudering (a more than 1200 years old former village and suburb in the Eastern part of Munich) does not have a dedicated zero waste supermarket, but twice a month, on Tuesday afternoons, an indoor farmer's market dubbed Tante Trude ("Auntie Trudie") keeps popping up in the neighborhood associations' offices. Organic farmers offer local produce, and you can donate to the Trudelade project: home-cooked jam made from abandoned fruit trees in the neighbourhood (you'll get a jar as reward).
South-South-West of Munich, the city of Wolfratshausen (the endpoint of the S7 urban train) likewise sports a package-free shop centrally located at the Obermarkt market place: Ohnverpackt, another zero-waste shop opening within the corona lockdown in the spring of 2020, is even certified organic. The few conventional products of regional origin are clearly marked as an exception. It does not only offer the usual dry food and household chemicals, but also a good selection of cheese and antipasti. What you won't find are fresh fruits and veges, meat and sausages. There's a small day cafe, unfortunately all closed on Mondays.
South of Munich, directly located at the S-Bahn station of Neubiberg the owner of the conventional Edeka supermarket opened a side project next door, Hertscheck Unpacked which hopefully attracts people who usually wouldn't buy off the conventional supermarket tracks. Although not marked most of the unpackaged dry food is organic – the shop assistant explained that since the shop itself isn't certified but fills the gravity bins and glass jars from bigger packages it isn't allowed to declare the products as "bio". There's also a good selection of loose-weight natural body care (both, in solid and liquid form) and household chemistry from brands I haven't found elsewhere. You can refill organic gin and regional (though not organic) whisky. The highlight of the shop are grow cabinets with special lamps where a good selection of herbs is grown, naturally free from agrochemicals. For city dwellers the place most certainly is worth a little bicycle ride (through the beautiful eco park Umweltgarten Neubiberg where an organic farmer's market is held on Thursday afternoons) or urban train tour even though the place has less liberal opening hours than the conventional supermarket next door. Fun fact: The former premises of the Edeka supermarket now host a Vollcorner organic supermarket.
In smaller municipalities, (urban) train stations usually are the only public (and sustainable) transport hub and as such a natural place for zero-waste supermarkets. So I was glad to find a new (in 2022) co-operatively organised organic zero-waste supermarket in Unterföhrung, next to the S-Bahn train station. The shop dubbed UFG (short for "unverpackt, fair, gemeinsam" – "unpacked, fair, together") is open to everyone, with a 10 percent discount scheme for members. It does not only offer dry food, condiments and household items, but also bread, rolls, cakes, dairy products and fresh, predominantly local fruits and veges. On Thursday afternoons you also may buy local organic meat and sausages, cheese and other fresh artisanal organic products from a mobile booth of the Tagwerk co-operative.
There's a small lunch cafe offering organic soups, quiches and sandwiches as well as cereal bowls, coffee, smoothies, tea and cake, all vegetarian, often vegan. Unfortunately you have to register with an app service to take your food with you in a returnable bowl or box, and nevertheless may have to come back to the shop to return it. So better bring your own boxes.
In March 2019 a tiny neighbourhood shop specializing in natural home cleaning 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.
About 20 years ago, Munich got its first – and to my knowledge only – organic department store centrally located a few steps from the Isartor: It consists of the city's first branch of the Basic supermarket chain with a self-service cafe on the ground floor and both, a self-service restaurant and a fashion and beauty store on the first floor. The latter, Beauty & Nature, is a reliable source of organic clothes (with a focus on women and children), body care, home decoration, toys, dietary supplements and all types of sustainable household items including shoe shine, candles, seeds, cutting boards, or floor clothes. Long anticipated, they started to offer refill for household detergents of the Sonett brand by the end of 2021, with a 10 percent discount. Since the staff is knowledgeable, friendly and helpful, do not hesitate to ask if you have any questions.
In autumn 2016 the local Vollcorner supermarkets received an official permit by the Munich Department of Public Order (Kreisverwaltungsreferat) to fill customers' jars and boxes with cheese, antipasti, processed meat products or cake. The Basic supermarket chain followed in summer 2017, while independent convenience stores often had done so anyway. What's missing are customers bringing appropriate containers or at least asking the staff to fill their orders into returnable glass jars (Vollcorner, Lebascha and others) or stainless steel containers (Basic) provided by the shop itself. So be brave! You can make a difference!
To avoid misunderstandings it is advisable to clearly point to your box (or ask for the deposit container) 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. Since they started to provide stainless steel boxes for a deposit of 7 EUR there's however no excuse for one-way packaging here anymore. Artisanal organic butcher's shops will also fill meat into boxes you provide. The Herrmannsdorfer groceries (e.g. the one at Max-Weber-Platz) reward you with a few cents discount per saved packaging.
Until the end of 2022 Basic supermarkets had gravity bin dispensers for pasta, nuts, dried fruit, sweets, grains and more. But since the company announced threatening insolvency these have been removed and the package-free offerings were reduced to fruits and vegetables as well as food from the serviced bakery and butchers' counters.
For a little while all Basic supermarkets in Munich offered detergents for refill, but they seem to have disappeared, too. Early in 2023 I found however containers to return empty cleaning agents bottles of the Sonett brand at the main branch in Bogenhausen – the producer is collecting them for controlled re-cycling into new bottles.
The shops of the nation-wide operating Alnatura chain never offered refill dispensers. However, it has been increasing the range of products in returnable jars and bottles continously since 2021 – among others fairly traded nut butters, a number of dry products and even ketchup.
Dried fruits and nuts and (as a recent addition) vegan savoury spreads in refundable glasses as well as package-free toilet paper can also be bought from Vollcorner supermarkets. Their huge flagship store at Theresienwiese (with butcher's counter and lunch cafe) also experimented with a milk vending machine but this has been discontinued since 2019. Since 2022 there is however a dedicated shelf offering an impressive range of products in deposit glasses.
By the end of 2020 a number of conventional supermarket chains had introduced refill stations for dry food, too, but since you still have to do a lot of careful reading in front of the shelves to shop climate-friendly products, I won't mention them here, with one exception: the huge Tegut branch that opened in the Elisenhof shopping centre next to the main train station in December 2020. This supermarket chain really gives their customers a choice – all organic products are easily to recognise thanks to a light-green label on the shelves, and there's a great number of them in all product categories. Given the sheer number of products on sale the impressive refill rack at the left-hand side of the entrance aisle comprises only a negligible fraction of total sales, but it's a good start, and the best: All products in the gravity bins are organic, and they have the biggest selection of package-free organic chocolate-covered sweets I've come across so far. There are grains, cereals, nuts, dried fruit, legumes and sweets, but no flour and surprisingly almost no pasta.
Although the supermarket has its entrance next to the Sunday-open (and if you ask me generally more pleasant) organic supermarket Biokultur in the Hauptbahnhof basement Tegut is closed on Sundays and public holidays as well as in the evening. When you have at minimum half an hour to change trains you will however reach to refill some of your dry food containers as long as you know how it works: Put your box onto the scales and choose "Tara-Bon". This will print a label. Fill the box and remember the product id on the lower end of the gravity bin. Put the filled box back on the scales and press the second "Bon" button beneath the "Tara-Bon" button. Now you will be asked to type in the product id. Scan the bar code on the previously printed label with the hand scanner, and there you go: A receipt with a price tag will be printed for you. Seal your box with this second label and hurry up to the cash counter.
In Haidhausen the Lebascha neighbourhood grocery has been offering to fill all loose-weight products (cakes and bread, eggs, cheeses, olives, jelly gums and liquorice – only the latter is not organic) in bottles, jars and boxes customers brought along. When the shop was taken over by the Ökoesel co-operative dispensers for grains, nuts and the like as well as household chemicals were added, and you can also buy all types of herbs and spices by the gram. Ask for a deposit box in case you forgot to bring your own.
For home-made dried fruit stroll a few more steps down the street and step by Haidhauser Oase.
Household chemicals can be refilled at the Echt Bio Markt in Neuschwabing and at the Biochicco supermarket in the Au near Mariahilf-Platz. At the latter you can only refill original bottles of the Sonett label.
In Harlaching, the independent Biowelt supermarket has a small zero-waste corner with dispensers for dry food, a good selection of loose-weight dried fruit and a dairy and butchers' counter where you can hand over your containers.
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. Before the covid-19 pandemics all boothes (except the French fish monger) in the market block next to the church, right below the carillon, were organic, but now it's no longer that easy. Therefore a comprehensive list: There are three organic market gardens (Biogärtnerei an der Isen alias Avanti Andi, Demeterhof Fahrenzhausen alias O'is bio and a third one also selling flowers and seedlings which you will immediately recognise when greeted with a friendly French accent). Put differently: Simply avoid the biggest greengrocery booth, "Helminger".
For meat, sausages, cheese and other dairy products there are the aforementioned two producers, and in addition the farm sale of Bergwinklhof Monigottsöd. The latter also offers a small selection of wine, but for good and knowledgeable advise on wines or non-alcoholic drinks to accompany a meal you'll better pay a visit to Uli Scheffler's organic wine trader's booth. While the juices are readly available in deposit bottles, returnable wine bottles are still very rare, and not used for high-quality wines.
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.
Needless to say that the organic boothes on the famous Viktualienmarkt in the Munich city will happily support you when you make it clear that you want to use your own bags and containers. And the spring of 2021 did not only see the opening of an organic bakery in one of the solid market stalls in the northern part of the market, but also a tiny organic food shop for organic dry food grown and produced in the nearby Chiemgau region: Satt und gut ("full and good") sells staple foods like grains, flour, eggs, honey and oil but also cookies, both pre-packaged and loose weight, partially from the smallest gravity bins I've seen so far. Note that this shop, unlike the market itself, is closed on Mondays
In Zorneding a small farmers' market is being held every Friday on the premises of the Biohof Lenz organic farm. Here you can buy local organic meat and meat products, cheese, bread, veges, and occasionally honey and bee products, wines and spirits. Although most stalls are organic there are a few exceptions offering conventionally produced specialities. The Lenz family's own farm shop keeps open at the same time and on Saturdays, but for buying their exceptionally good meat you should subscribe to their newsletter and order beforehand according to availability (you should be fast to answer). Unfortunately all the Lenz meat and sausages are vacuumized in plastic.
At the Western edge of town, in Pasing the organic market garden of Bio-Gärtnerei Kamlah has a farm shop open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons. You can not only buy salads and vegetables grown here but also organic seedlings for your balcony or garden patch. The farm has also a market stall at the Pasinger Viktualienmarkt which keeps open all days except Sunday offering a huge selections of organic fruit and veges, but no seedlings.
While coffee is readily available from loose weight convenience stores, tea drinkers aren't well catered for: Usually you will find some tisanes and one or two types of black tea. Fortunately specialist tea shops still exist, and as they sell loose weight teas by the gram don't be shy and ask them to fill your tea box.
In the Tee Gschwendner shop in the Asamhof backyard a few meters from the new pedestrian street of Sendlinger Straße this will work as long as the opening of your jar or box is wide enough for the shop assistant to fill it without touching it with her shovel. The franchise also sells conventional fare, so make sure to insist on organic quality – "Bio-Qualität" is the keyword. You'll find a decent selection of both, green, black and herbal teas, with and without aromatics. Bring a little time to stroll through the light and pleasant shop that has been at this place since the 1980ies, ask the assistant to show and suggest teas according to your taste and tell a little detail. When all your teas are filled into your jars you will be asked whether you fancy a tea sample, so it is smart to bring an additional small glass or jar. Mind you that green tea doesn't store well in classic metal tea boxes as this material supports further oxidation processes.
In spring 2022 it turned out to be difficult to buy loose-weight organic flavoured tea as compliance to the EU regulation 2018/848 on organic products had not been established in time.
Coffee and food to take away
At Basic self-service cafes, the Ohne supermarkets, Siggis coffee bar and restaurant and an increasing number of other coffee places you may lend a Recup coffee cup for a deposit which you can return at any other shop participating in the retour scheme.
Some like the Neulinger bakeries and the Basic self-service lunch bars will even give you a small discount for sparing the environment.
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.
Organic supermarkets which reduced their zero-waste approach
Between 2017 and 2022 supermarkets of the Basic chain had a clear focus on package- and plastic-free daily supplies. In 2023 the management stopped most of these efforts, and Basic went back to where it came from: being an ordinary supermarket, offering organic products only.
- Basic City 1, Westenrieder Str. 35, Mon–Sat 8–20
- Basic Bogenhausen, Richard-Strauss-Str. 48, Mon–Sat 8–20
- Basic Neuhausen, Nymphenburger Str. 82, Mon–Sat 8–20, cafe cum bakery opens at 7 am
- Der plastikfreie Laden, Schlossstr. 7 (Munich's first zero-waste shop, also known as "Plastikfreie Zone", now online only)
- Mutternaturladen, Grünwalder Str. 244
- Mutternaturladen, Tumblinger Str. 45 (inside the Bahnwärter Thiel area
- Naturverpacktes Westend Pur, Heimeranstr. 51a
- Evis – ab ins Glas, Pollinger Str. 11, Gilching