Wonderfill Just One Month In – Already Having An Impact
By Rod Webb
Wonderfill isn’t yet a month old but Hannah Robbins, who both owns and runs the shop, is already responding to feedback from her customers. Opened as the first plastic-free shop in St Leonards in response to the growing public concern about plastic waste, it is already evolving to meet the needs of the local community.
Not only does Hannah want to cut down on plastic waste but also enable customers to cut down on food waste by buying in quantities, often very small, that they actually require. But some items, like porridge oats and rice started flying off the shelves, one person even bringing in a pillow as a container to fill up. This has enabled her to buy certain products in bulk – and pass on any savings to customers. “I started by stocking core products but have been responding to requests I get from customers,” she says.
So rather than feeling disappointed about any item not stocked in the shop, just mention it to Hannah and you might find it appears in a week or two. She told me that she “hadn’t started with any intention to be a health food shop” but as a result of requests from customers she might end up being that as well.
The day I was in there, the shop was buzzing with life. What particularly struck me was how people were keen to chat, not just about the shop itself and what it was selling, but also about wider issues of living sustainably. “One reason to have a physical shop is that people can come in to chat. Sometimes only that!” she said. “But it’s not a problem.”
She’ll be putting up a notice board soon and encouraging people to post information related to sustainability (and healthy living): where to recycle difficult items of waste, how to source sustainable milk deliveries – or even where to source a subsidised compost bin. In other words, it will act as a bit of a local hub.
Customers comments include: “You can get what you need and not stuff you don’t want.” And: “We don’t want plastic packaging, do we?” Or a simple: “Brilliant!” And: “Long overdue.”
One customer mentioned the cultural shift saying it was therefore “important to have somewhere local and accessible.” Another also mentioned the need for plastic-free products to be “practical and accessible”.
I brought up the fact the Trinity Wholefoods in Hastings was also launching a ‘refill shop’ in Cambridge Road in a couple of months. Hannah’s response was very welcoming. As one customer later said: “Every neighbourhood needs one.” What became clear was that Hannah is here to provide a service – making money out of it is secondry.
But she’s also realistic. As quoted in the Hastings Observer, she realises the need to put pressure on government to take environmental concerns seriously and pressure big business to change their wasteful habits and makes the point: “They are watching!”
• Wonderfill – Kings Road, St Leonards. Open from 10am to 6pm everyday except Monday and Tuesday, and open late until 8pm on Thursday. Follow on Instagram at wonderfill.st.leonards
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