Bulk Shopping Netherlands

#ZeroWaste Month Week 1

Whenever I see someone successfully not producing trash I get a bit suspicious. My first encounter was with the blog “trash is for tossers”, where 3 years of trash fit into one Mason jar. I am not living along, am not single and also not a vegetarian with bulk shops around the corner, so how do I get to zero waste?

After a few months trying to reduce my plastic trash I realized very quickly that I had to go the extra mile sometimes, reject plastic bags in advance and accept every bulk opportunity with open arms if I ever wanted to reach a significant zero waste goal.

I started at the farmers market. A place where fruits and vegetable should be available in bulk, be seasonal, local and fresh. In my experience you have to know your food to get the last three characteristics right. Most of the food we eat, and not many people eat seasonally in Europe, is imported. I can easily go to my local market and get oranges from Israel, Apples from New Zealand and vegetables from Spain and Italy. It sometimes is impossible to get seasonal and local products as I experienced recently. I was looking for corn salad, which is in season in February and grown in the Netherlands. It was not available and I was told it is not in season right now.

As much as I depend on farmers markets and prefer them compared to supermarkets every time, I do have my doubts when imported food is easier to get than local food.

My guide to bulk shopping at the market:

  • Take as many cotton bags with you as possible
  • Frequent the same places so people will know you don’t take plastic bags
  • If something is only available packaged in plastic you might have to find an alternative source for this product

The details:

  1. I normally carry one bag for potatoes, one bag for apples and one bag for oranges.
  2. Additionally I have another big bag for carrots, salads and other vegetables.
  3. At the market I visit 3 to 4 places where I normally always buy the same products.
  4. After a few weeks of switching from plastic to reusable bags I manage to get back home without a single plastic bag.
  5. Everything I cannot get package-free at the market I either shop at a bulk store (like mushrooms, which somehow need to put into a plastic bag) or try to grow myself (herbs and soft fruit).

Bulk Shopping


In a rainy country such as the Netherlands, not having to take the trash out (recyclable trash) is probably the most rewarding part of zero waste. Even though it can be a pain sometimes to get my package-free, biodegradable or just reusable products, not producing unnecessary trash is an important contribution to a healthier environment. The trash that doesn’t end up in my bin really feels like kilos that have been lifted off my daily life.


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