The Wally Shop: The zero-waste delivery service making trash-free a reality in New York City

Brooklyn-based startup, The Wally Shop is making zero-waste grocery shopping a reality by delivering products in reusable, eco-friendly packaging.

Launched last October in Bushwick, customers can conveniently place their order for seasonal and organic produce as well as pantry items like grains, nuts, pasta, legumes, spices, coffee and tea online. The Wally Shop source from small local shops and farmers markets to ensure that all of the ingredients offered are ethically-sourced and high quality.

On the day of the requested delivery date, a team of shoppers is dispatched to local farmers’ markets, bulk food stores and grocers like Greene Grape in Fort Greene or Bushwick’s Precycle. All of the shopping and deliveries are done via e-bikes.

Couriers then deliver everything in reusable packaging, which is later picked up and reused.

The Wally Shop doesn’t charge a markup on any of the groceries but adds a 5% service fee to compensate the team of shoppers, a $5.99 delivery fee, and a $1-refundable deposit for the totes, bags and jars.

The idea behind The Wally Shop came about while founder Tamara Lim was working at Amazon, managing the packaging and shipping retail category. There, she says, customers were demanding more recycled and reusable packaging, but there wasn’t the infrastructure in place for producing post-consumer packaging.

The e-commerce industry ships around 165 billion packages each year, according to Fast Company. Amazon accounted for about 5 billion of these in 2017. While the retail giant claims to have eliminated nearly a quarter of a million tonnes of packaging materials between 2007 and 2017, a staggering amount of packing materials still get sent to landfill.

Faced with the limitations of recycling, Tamara Lim decided that something needed to be done. This is also coincided with her own switch to a more sustainable lifestyle herself, as she began to realise how difficult zero-waste grocery shopping was with a busy schedule.

With single-use plastic packaging at an all-time high, grocery stores were a barrier to her sustainable endeavours. She wanted to create something that would resolve some of the issues she was witnessing at Amazon as well as combine the convenience of delivery with the responsibility of package-free groceries.

And so Tamara Lim quit her job and moved from Seattle to New York City. Her reason for choosing New York City was because it had been identified as “the city that produces the most amount of trash per capita”.

In an interview with BK Reader, Tamara Lim said: “I just saw how much packaging we moved every single day,” Lim explained. “And I really became aware of all of the failures in our current waste management system. Less than 40 percent of what we put into the recycling bin actually gets recycled. The rest ends up in the oceans and landfills, seeps into our soil and contaminates the water we’re drinking, which now contains plastic microparticles.” 

The Wally Shop currently operates in select neighborhoods in Brooklyn, and is launching into Manhattan later this year. Tamara Lim says the zero-waste delivery service could be rolled out in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, and Seattle in the future.

The Wally Shop

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about sustainable lifestyle and green living for publications, and offers content services to planet-friendly businesses. Find out more at 

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