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Full Circle celebrates zero-waste retail anniversary




Full Circle co-founder Emma Thomas with MP Daniel Zeichner on the stall. Picture: Keith Heppell
Full Circle co-founder Emma Thomas with MP Daniel Zeichner on the stall. Picture: Keith Heppell

Zero-waste retailer Full Circle held a celebration for its first anniversary which saw MP Daniel Zeichner cutting the ribbon on its vegan fare stall in Cambridge market.

“It’s the anniversary of our first stall, and now we’re in the market selling in earnest, so thanks to all of you for helping us get here,” Full Circle director Paul Richardson told those gathered in the market square for the occasion. “I’d like you to think hard about what brought us into this business, it’s not about money, it’s very hard work... it’s about buying products without packaging, it’s a deep desire to stem the tide, to roll back to a point where we’re slowing the tide of devastation as a consequence of our being on this planet.

“We believe in the three locals: local firms with local ownership, local suppliers and we believe strongly in local engagement – we see this as a service for you. Our hopes and ambitions are to make it ever more convenient for you, so I’m pleased to announce a double stall on Sundays, and we’re in negotiations for a sixth day on the market.”

Full Circle has three directors: Paul’s an engineer, Emma Thomas is an ecologist and Johanna Laibe is a bioinformatician. Their first stall was at the Ipswich Vegan Festival a year ago, and now the zero-waste avatars are open in the market from Thursday to Monday (10am to 4pm).

“In the new year we’re looking at home delivery services,” Paul added.

Daniel Zeichner MP cuts the ribbon. Picture: Mike Scialom
Daniel Zeichner MP cuts the ribbon. Picture: Mike Scialom

“People sometimes ask us if we have a shop and I say to them ‘we’re in the beating heart of Cambridge so this is us, whether we have a shop or not this is where we’re happy to be’.”

Mr Zeichner praised the Full Circle model before cutting the ribbon, made from fabric from the Cambridge Community Scrap Store.

“There’s a growing mood across the country for people to live their lives differently, and this is a great example of how that can work,” Mr Zeichner said. “We’ve seen in the last few weeks children on climate marches, and Extinction Rebellion on the streets. This is part of a real change, and providing services like this keeps localism to local economies.”

One of the services Full Circle provides is a recycling facility for crisp packets and biscuit wrappers, which require separate recycling from plastic – so they go into the black bin rather than the blue bin.

“We send it off to Terracycle who recycle the waste and have a scheme to give us cash in return,” said Paul.

Last up to speak at the occasion was Alana Sinclair, manager of Cambridge Carbon Footprint.

“We help people live more sustainably in daily life,” Alana said. “That could mean help with recycling, helping reduce energy bills. It’s admirable what Terracycle has done – 50 kilos of crisp packets recycled from Full Circle’s stall is an incredible achievement, so thank you.”

Later, she described the issues facing those who want to reduce their carbon footprint as including the near-inevitability of plastic for most shoppers.

“Plastics are a gateway drug to wider environmental issues,” Alana added. “The plastic issue has got people thinking. We can all see what’s happening to the natural world. We work with businesses and community groups, they invite us to talk, run workshops, hold events. Last year we helped 500 different people delivering activities around environmental sustainability.”

Full Circle regular customer Sophie Dubillot refills a container. Picture: Keith Heppell
Full Circle regular customer Sophie Dubillot refills a container. Picture: Keith Heppell

One convert to Full Circle is Sophie Dubillot. Originally from France, she has been a Cambridge resident of some years.

“I’ve been a customer for six months,” she says. “I buy travel soap, chewy dental tablets – it’s toothpaste in the form of a tablet, they’re great for travelling – plus yeast for making bread, and laundry liquid in refills.”

Sophie brings her own dispensers for laundry and washing up liquid. She’s at the stall with partner Michael Mulvihill. Is he a recyclist?

“I’ve just started thinking about these types of things actually,” Michael says. “At home on a Monday evening, putting out the rubbish, the green and black bins are usually relatively empty, but we have to jump up and down on the blue bin to squash it all in and get the lid down.

“The first thing I’m doing is buying bigger quantities as that uses less packaging, so 10 kilos of rice, 5 kilos of pasta – and I always carry a water container with me.”

Terracycle recycling on the Full Circle stall is for crisp packets and biscuit wrappers. Picture: Mike Scialom
Terracycle recycling on the Full Circle stall is for crisp packets and biscuit wrappers. Picture: Mike Scialom


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