Packaging means a considerable burden on the environment. At the same time, their service life is very short, it practically lasts only until the customer takes the goods home from the store. Then they become the contents of containers for sorting and, in the worst case, landfills. However, the packaging is not only a burden on the environment, but also an extra expense for consumers, and more and more people no longer want to pay to buy rubbish. At present, the concept of non-packaging sales, ie the purchase of food and other goods without packaging or in one’s own packaging, is becoming more and more popular, and that is not only in the Czech Republic.

Each packaging becomes a waste over time, so the less packaging we have, the better

Consumers in the Czech Republic often reject plastics and non-organic packaging themselves, the interest in buying food and other assortment and putting them in the consumer‘s own reusable packaging is growing. There is an ever-increasing number of stores selling products without packaging and in returnable containers, and after small stores, large chains are gradually adding to this trend. The principle of unpackaged shopping is very simple – people shop in their own containers, cloth bags or baskets, which they use repeatedly throughout their life. The customers thus take only as many goods from the store as they really need, and also in packaging that they do not have to throw away. Buying products and putting them in your own packaging does not burden the environment, and people only buy the amount they really need.

How does the law approach buying of unpackaged products?

The legal regulations of the Czech Republic do not prohibit the sale of food and meals in packaging brought by the customer and it is only up to the storekeeper whether to allow such a method of sale. On the other hand, the legal regulations do not contain an obligation for the storekeeper to always allow the final consumer to do so.

So when Mrs Jana turned to the counselling centre of the Consumer Defence Association of Moravia and Silesia with a complaint about a retail chain in which the seller refused to sell her a spread in her own plastic box, we could not please her with our answer. It should be noted that in the case of the sale of food in containers and other packaging brought by the consumer, the store can not affect the hygienic condition and suitability of these packaging, which may not only be a problem in resolving possible complaints, but it places additional demands on hygiene standards. If a food business operator decides to sell in containers brought by the consumer, he must have procedures in place to ensure that the food he sells does not contaminate the rest of the food sold to other consumers or the raw ingredients from which the food or dishes are made.

Therefore, many companies simply do not allow the sale into your own packaging. And if the trader decides to sell products into your own brought containers or packaging, the operating staff should also be able to refuse to sell the goods to the customer if such a container is not clean.

In the meantime, Mrs Jana will have to accept this fact or look for another store. The number of stores that have their marketing directly based on so-called unpackaged sales is growing, but so far we can find them more in larger cities. However, we will hope that the number of such stores will gradually increase as the demand of us consumers grows

Just as ordinary consumers in the Czech Republic (despite initial resistance) quickly became accustomed to not receiving free plastic carrier bags in stores, they are now slowly getting used to the fact that fruit and vegetables can also be bought in other containers than in a microtine bag, and that they can take their coffee from the vending machine in their own often beautifully designed thermo mug, from which it certainly tastes better than from a disposable cup. So the trend is set clearly, now it depends only on us, the consumers. It is not just a cliché to say that each of us has a role to play.

What is the situation now during the coronavirus epidemic?

Coronavirus also has new, fundamental impacts on unpackaged sales. The current situation does not favour selling unpackaged products. While a few months ago, traders competed in the removal of packaging, the coronavirus crisis has shuffled the cards considerably. Due to the spreading pandemic of COVID 19 caused by a new type of coronavirus (SARS CoV 2), which is spread by droplet infection, personal contact with the patient or through surfaces affected by the patient, the State Health Institute issued a statement recommending an emergency situation in the context of the global outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic, which significantly reduced the sale of non-prepacked food to consumers who brought their own packaging and containers and such products could be only packed into new and previously not used packages.

What will happen next? How the situation will develop is difficult to estimate. One can only hope that this unpredictable situation will not reverse the general trend of reducing packaging, which used to be just the opposite.