Our knowledge base is closed – This is an archive page

Bepakt — Our mission, vision and impact thus far…

Bepakt is an independent think-tank and open knowledge platform on the topic of zero-waste (packaging-free) grocery stores / supermarkets. Since 2014, we have been actively maintaining the most comprehensive international database on this niche. Early 2019, we listed 350+ zero-waste grocery stores and 80+ of their crowdfunding campaigns. Additionally, we wrote articles to demystify topics such as ocean plastics, recycling and the history of the supermarket.

Bepakt’s mission is to help reduce consumer (food) packaging waste by empowering the niche of zero-waste (packaging-free) grocery stores / supermarkets — and its stakeholders — with comprehensive open data. Bepakt’s content and design allows accessible and flexible knowledge exchange between zero-waste grocery store entrepreneurs, policy makers, governments, consumers, researchers, designers, media, influencers, educators, and others.

Bepakt data was used in for example:

💡 10+ researches (2016-2018) on ocean plastics, food waste, food packaging, zero-waste shops – in various international regions (from Italy to Taiwan).

💡 The reportSeizing the opportunity: Using plastic only where it makes sense” (2018) by Zero-Waste Europe

💡 The reportUnwrapped: How throwaway plastic is failing to solve Europe’s food waste problem” (2018) by The Institute for European Environmental Policy, Friends of the Earth Europe, Zero-Waste Europe and Rethink Plastic.

💡 The reportCircular Rotterdam – Opportunities for new jobs in a zero waste economy” (2018) by Rotterdam Circular

💡 The reportA crisis of convenience – the corporations behind the plastic pollution pandemic” (2018) by Greenpeace International.

💡 The Dutch Ministry of Agriculture’s article (2018) about sustainable packaging in Germany.

💡 Numerous entrepreneurs, blogger and consumers – as we know through personal feedback.

💡 Presentations by leading zero-waste grocery store / supermarket entrepreneurs/lecturers.

💡 CNN’s video on retail trends (2016).


🔹 May 2014: Bepakt was founded on the design to design “portable packaging” for zero-waste shopping — but eventually, Bepakt’s focus shifted to developing an open knowledge base. Product design might return at a later stage.

🔹 July 2014: We executed an in-shop customer survey at zero-waste grocery store Robuust (Antwerp, Belgium) to learn about the wishes and complaints of (early adopting) zero-waste shoppers.

🔹 August 2014: We started to gather data on the (European) packaging-free grocery store niche, which was at that time still very small.

🔹 September 2014: Thijs van Engeland designed the Bepakt logo and Rutger Muller designed the Bepakt website.

🔹 October 2014: We released the first European Map of Packaging-Free Grocery Stores. View the viral Facebook post, which was shared more than 100 times.


🔹 August 2015: We published our article on the various forms of plastic pollution: “Plastic Problems“.

🔹 September 2015: We visited and shopped at zero-waste grocery stores Bag & Buy (Utrecht, Netherlands) and Original Unverpackt (Berlin, Germany).

🔹 November 2015: We published the first index of zero-waste (packaging-free) grocery stores / supermarkets, and their crowdfunding results. In the process we had contact with several very helpful shops.


🔹 February 2016: We met up with Richard Kleijn of Mobitecture, to hear about his works with sustainable bamboo and hemp. Richard tips BioFutura.

🔹 May 2016: We met up with BioFutura (Rotterdam) to talk about developments in non-plastic / compostable food containers.

🔹 July 2016: Rutger (of Bepakt), Wouter Moekotte (of BioFutura) and Thijs Maartens (of Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute and CircularFutures) made an inspirational visit to Robuust in Antwerp.

🔹 September 2016: Bepakt, zero-waste grocery store Robuust and zero-waste grocery store Unpackaged were featured on CNN. Watch “Trimming Your Waste“.

🔹 September 2016: Bepakt data was used a source for pioneering MSc Thesis “Barriers and Incentives to Zero Packaging Food Retail: A Global Stocktake” by Alexia Smits Sandano (Environmental Management and Policy Lund, Sweden, September 2016).


🔹 March 2017: We made a big update to the shop index.

🔹 February 2017: Rutger (of Bepakt) met Hilde Øvreeide of rå design studio and zero-waste grocery store Råvarene – Din Zero Waste Kolonial (Bergen, Norway).

🔹 May 2017: We received a sponsorship from webhost Greenhost, which allowed the Bepakt site to handle more data traffic.

🔹 June 2017: We welcomed Guus Rietbergen to the team to contribute to Bepakt’s (data) design.

🔹 July 2017: Bepakt’s Rutger and Guus made an inspiring visit to semi-zero-waste grocery store ‘Coöperatie de Nieuwe Graanschuur‘ in Amersfoort, the Netherlands.

🔹 December 2017: We started our conversation with MIWA (Prague, Czech Republic) about zero-waste innovations and education.


🔹February 2018: Giulia Saladino joined the Bepakt team as an intern, while writing her MSc thesis “The Packaging-Free Grocery Stores Phenomenon in Italy: Key Characteristics, Drivers and Barriers – A Sustainable Entrepreneurship Perspective” at Utrecht University.

🔹April 2018: Giulia and Rutger revised the Bepakt article “A Short History Of The Supermarket”.

🔹May 2018: Giulia wrote the Bepakt article “Sort Your Trash“.

🔹August 2018: Rutger made a casual visit to zero-waste grocery store The Picker in Seoul, South Korea.

🔹October 2018: Thanks to Bepakt’s support during 8 months of research, Bepakt’s intern Giulia Saladino successfully presented her thesis project on the packaging-free (zero-waste) grocery stores phenomenon in Italy. She received very positive feedback from the Utrecht University and raised interest in zero-waste among various people.


🔹February 2019: We start to brainstorm with UX designer Vincent Olislagers.

🔹April 2019: We refined our mission, vision and plans on this About Bepakt page.

🔹April 2019: Launch of the Earth Ambassadors Community by Columbus Earth Center / Columbus Earth Lab, featuring Bepakt’s Rutger as a ‘Sustainable Super Hero’.

Bepakt – a brainchild of designer Rutger Muller – was born out of the question how to make packaging-free grocery shopping accessible and intuitive for mainstream consumers… like Muller himself.

Early 2014, zero-waste grocery store Original Unverpackt (Berlin, Germany) launched its crowdfunding campaign. This made a big impact on Muller, who was – like many other consumers – fed up with the excessive quantities of plastic packaging used in supermarkets. Muller dove into the subject of zero-waste and got in contact with pioneers such as Catherine Conway of Unpackaged (London, UK).

Muller saw how ingeniously these packaging-free grocery stores combined modern and vintage elements to create warm and friendly mini-supermarkets. Muller wished for a zero-waste shop to open near him. Yet, he wasn’t convinced that bringing along large glass jars (or semi-large plastic containers) would always be a convenient solution for him, as he often cycled with a backpack filled with work gear. Moreover, Muller realised that zero-waste shopping would involve careful planning. He wondered if he would never forget to bring his containers… and would it still be possible to shop spontaneously? Is zero-waste shopping something we all can get used to, just as we have gotten used to bringing our own bags with us in stead of using plastic bags?

Two interlinked core questions arose in Muller’s mind: how can zero-waste related design stimulate a change in behaviour/mentality and how can it introduce innovate practical/technological solutions? With this in mind, Muller formed a think-tank together with fellow designers Olga Vokalova, Thijs van Engeland and Ricky van Broekhoven (the first Bepakt team).

To understand the zero-waste customer experience they executed an in-store customer survey at zero-waste shop Robuust (Antwerp, Belgium). In the meantime, Muller started to compile a list all zero-waste grocery stores (packaging-free supermarkets) across the globe…. there were only around 30 of them back in 2014. Muller – who had always been inspired by open knowledge sharing, transparency and other hacker ethics – was soon publishing most of his findings openly on the Bepakt site.

Muller inquired with most of the shops about their assortment. Through that process, he started to understand that most shops offered a similar, wide product range – mostly locally and organically sourced. He also noticed that crowdfunding was a common practice in this sprouting niche. He saw a movement of like-minded grassroots-powered entrepreneurs. As identity/graphic design formed an important element of zero-waste grocery stores, it was important for Muller to put the shop logos in the spotlight on the Bepakt index.

Then, the niche of packaging-free grocery stores started to expand exponentially – and it slowly started to break free from western Europe. Fascinated with this glocal grassroots niche, Bepakt’s focus shifted to data design: building an open knowledge base. Bepakt kept expanding its shop index and its comparative overview of crowdfunding campaigns. More and more positive feedback came rolling in from consumers, media, shop owners and those in the process of starting a zero-waste business. Accurate details (like the exact opening dates of all listed shops) became more and more useful for various parties.

The need for a new website grew. And a new Bepakt team formed, with Giulia Saladino – who wrote her MSc thesis on the rise of packaging-free grocery stores in Italy, Guus Rietbergen (MSc Human Centered Multimedia) and Rutger Muller (MA Design for Digital Culture) ……

Bepakt — Our focus: the ‘glocal grassroots movement’ of zero-waste grocery stores

The phenomenon of packaging-free (zero-waste) grocery stores has evolved as a ‘glocal grassroots’ movement: the shops are small, local, independent businesses, offering mostly local products – yet they are connected via a global zero-waste movement, with most of its influence spreading via the internet. Bepakt stimulates research into the economic and societal potential of this unique business model.

✔️ Primary value: zero-waste, packaging reduction/abolition

✔️ Product assortment: a wide product range, competitive with regular supermarkets.

✔️ Product sourcing: a strong focus on local and/or organic products.

✔️ Branding design: modern graphic design, web design, etc.

✔️ Marketing: mainly through social media.

✔️ Shop design: in line with the zero-waste/minimalist philosophy. Usually wooden second-hand (upcycled) furniture, clean and simple design.

✔️ Shop financing: often through crowdfunding.

✔️ Knowledge sharing: in the shop (shop assistant substitutes the informative role conventionally performed by the packaging); online (web communities, courses); and offline (courses, workshops, lectures).

✔️ Consumers shopping experience: serviced (clients are served by the shop assistant) or self-service (but still while interacting with the shop assistant).

✔️ Additional characteristics: sociability dimension/human relations between shop owner and (local/small) suppliers as well as between shop owner and clients; limited financial resources (often a single employee in the shop); little prior business knowledge; little contact with governments, etc. (for more info see our index of researches)

Zero-Waste Grocery Stores – Their main advantages

🌎 Precycling: avoidance of (packaging) waste generation at the source. Why produce packaging when it isn’t necessary? Packaging waste prevention has significant advantages over recycling and other forms of waste management: it prevents waste from ending up in nature due to accidental release or waste mismanagement. It thereby prevents harm to our ecosystem; directly (e.g. the entanglement of animals) or indirectly (e.g. micro-sized ocean plastics accumulating in food chains). For more info see the Bepakt article ‘Plastic Problems‘.

“Precycling” is an internationally recognized approach as the best way to tackle the (plastic) waste problem. The European Union describes this in its Waste Framework Directive. The US Environmental Protection Agency states it in its Waste Management Hierarchy. These policies also mention other benefits of stimulating zero-waste, such as: incentivising green-tech innovation and creating green jobs.

🌎 Food waste reduction: zero-waste grocery stores allow customers to buy the exact amount of food they need, thus avoiding excesses (source: Unwrapped, 2018). Also the lack of packaging gives freedom of choice to clients about how much product to buy (e.g. not being obliged to buy 500gr pasta or 375gr of cereals).

🌎 Return to human relations in grocery stores: the small size of zero-waste stores, their neighbourhood-focused nature, their customer experience, their product typology (mostly local and organic, where everything is known about the producer), as well as their lack of packaging, inevitably lead to the necessity to exchange some words in the shop. Here, the shop assistant is a key figure in the shop, a point of reference for clients.

🌎 Prevent endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which are released by for example the plastic coating inside of tin food cans. Food packaging is a major source of exposure to EDCs (specifically BPA and EDHP) [source journal: Environ Health Perspectives]. EDCs can have a negative impact on the health of pregnant women and their unborn babies [sources: Prof.dr. Majorie van Duursen (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) and the FREIA project].

Bepakt.com – Towards Version 2.0 – Why re-design our website?

🚧 This section describes the new website which we plan to launch late mid/late 2020…

Between 2014 and now, countless voluntary hours have gone into developing the current Bepakt website (version 1.0). All work was done with zero budget, using limited (free) tools. This pro-active approach has taught us a lot about design and communication. Various individuals and parties started to approach us with thankful messages, critical feedback, and requests to collaborate. Furthermore, our intern Giulia Saladino (who now still works at Bepakt) graduated on the topic of zero-waste shops in Italy while working on our Bepakt knowledge base. All these experiences have brought us to the conclusion we hold today: we need to take Bepakt to a professional level. We hope you will support us in this process (we’ll release more details on this later).

The new Bepakt website will expand upon our believe that comprehensive, transparent, free data is essential for the zero-waste supermarket movement to grow as one symbiotic entity. Not only because it creates networked visibility and knowledge within the zero-waste niche, but also because third parties (researchers, designers, press, NGOs, governments, and others) can learn to understand the details of the zero-waste entrepreneurship, and in that way offer their optimal support. Furthermore, we are now more aware of challenges that zero-waste grocery store entrepreneurs are currently facing.

Bepakt.com 2.0 – User Groups

Zero-Waste Enterpreneurs – The market of zero-waste (packaging-free) grocery stores / supermarkets evolved as a grassroots movement and is currently facing the challenge of breaking out of its niche form and reach a more mainstream market level. Therefore we believe it is important to research and share the strengths and challenges of local, independent entrepreneurship – while also documenting the evolution of the zero-waste grocery store niche across the globe. We also want to include zero-waste associations in our database, this group is rapidly expanding.

Third Parties – Researchers, policy makers, educators, designers and media still need accurate information to follow the latest global developments about zero-waste grocery stores.

Those New To Zero Waste – There is still a lot of confusion about complex topics such as packaging materials, waste processes and the food industry. We will continue to write educational articles to demystify these topics. Now, also with (interactive) illustrations. Furthermore, to create a worldwide map of zero-waste grocery stores, we are starting a collaboration with citizen movements platform In Common.

Bepakt.com 2.0 – Design Pillars

🔹 Open Access: free to access. Free to add new data/content (checked and moderated by Bepakt). Creative Commons licensed content (in stead of fully copyrighted content) whenever possible.

🔹 Exhaustive : covering all zero-waste grocery stores/supermarkets globally – in line with our “Glocal Grassroots” scope.

🔹 Detailed : Website built flexible enough to add more data and sub-databases at any point in time. Possible additions are: indexes of zero-waste organisations, zero waste lifestyle products, media articles…

🔹 Unbiased : displaying both the successes and difficulties (such as shop closing dates) of zero-waste entrepreneurship.

🔹 User Friendly:
– Tables with better filters and sorting mechanisms to suit the various (international) Bepakt users.
– The option to display or export graphs and spreadsheets in a flexible way.
– Real-time currency conversion (for the crowdfunding comparison table) and many other, new practical features.
– The new website will allow us to very quickly add new shops (which currently takes 20+ minutes per entry) or make changes to the content.

🔹 Crowdsourced: the option for users to add entries (such as shops) to the knowledge base – under Bepakt moderation.

🔹 Open Connection (API): usage of open formats and protocols that make it possible to connect our database with other database driven platform (such as maps). We’re currently talking with IN COMMON about collaborating on their zero waste map app.

🔹 Accessible: usable with handicaps.

🔹 Aesthetic: an attractive yet calm and minimalist style, with room for beautiful shop logos, illustrations, infographics and photos.

🔹 Future Proof / Sustainable: well maintainable, servicable and covering all hosting costs until 2023.

🔹 Ecological: carbon neutral webhosting via Greenhost

Bepakt 2.0 – Planning

We’ll adopt a step-by-step user experience design process, which allows us to create the following “deliverables”:

  • Personas (Who will use the site?)
  • User Stories (How will they do that?)
  • Wireframes (Global design of the website)
  • Clickable Prototype (Impression of how the site will work)
  • User test of Prototype (User test report)
  • Back end of the new website (Create data structure of the website)
  • Front end of the new website (Design the look and feel of the website)
  • Real user test of beta version (User test report)
  • Launch of Bepakt 2.0 website 🚀
  • User test of Live production version (User test report)

  • This section is still under construction. More info will follow soon…

    Bepakt 2.0 – Crowdfunding

    Unfortunately we cancelled the crowdfunding campaign for our new website, as it wasn’t bringing in enough money. As promised, those who get in touch can get in touch for a quick refund. Still, we learned a lot from the campaign. Check out to video to learn more about us, and see beautiful images of shops across the globe!
    —> fund.bepakt.com

    Bepakt — Team and Partners

    All three of us are involved in communication, writing and design:

    👨‍💻 Rutger Muller (founder) [LinkedIn] – Dutch interaction designer – MA Design for Digital Culture
    (with 1.5 years of experience in voluntary saving and redistributing food waste in Amsterdam Nieuw-West)

    👩‍💻 Giulia Saladino [LinkedIn] – Italian zero-waste researcher. MSc Sustainable Business and Innovation (internship completed at Bepakt). Nature & Sustainability Co-ordinator at Danone.

    👨‍💻 Guus Rietbergen [LinkedIn] – Dutch interaction designer – MSc Human Centered Multimedia

    👨‍💻 Remko Dijksma [LinkedIn] – UX Designer at Eet.nu

    📱 Call or mail Bepakt: bepakt@bepakt.com | +3165082457 (Rutger)

    💻 Bepakt on Social Media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | LinkedIn

    We received precious advice and support from:

    ▪️ Our webhost Greenhost.

    ▪️ Augustin Godscal of open platform incommon.cc – we recently started to support the zero-waste map they’re currently developing.

    ▪️ Tereza Dohnalova of zero-waste innovators MIWA.

    ▪️ Savina Istas of zero-waste shop Robuust.

    ▪️ Hilde Øvreeide of zero-waste shop Råvarene.

    ▪️ Thijs Maartens of think-tank CircularFutures and Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute.

    ▪️ Wouter Moekotte of sustainable disposables company Biofutura

    ▪️ Vincent Olislagers (designer for clients like Microsoft).

    ▪️ Fashion designer Olga Vokalova.

    ▪️ Graphic designer Thijs van Engeland, who made the Bepakt logo.

    ▪️ Product designer Ricky van Broekhoven.

    ▪️ Sustainable Communication agency ViaStory (Maastricht).

    ▪️ And many others.