They help people stock up on groceries, toiletries and cleaning products without the need for single-use packaging.
Customers can bring their own containers to their Green Options Zero-Waste shop where they can weigh out the amount they want to purchase, cutting down on unnecessary plastic and food waste.
Edible items, stored in glass gravity dispensers, range from cereals, pastas, rice, cous cous, nuts, seeds, pulses and fruits to herbs, spices, baking products, oils, vinegars and loose teas.
They also sell a range of environmentally friendly toiletries and cleaning products such as shampoo, conditioner, body wash, washing-up liquid and fabric softener.
Many of the items work out cheaper to buy loose than if you bought them all packaged up.
The couple’s business, located in Shrewsbury’s Darwin Shopping Centre, is one of a growing number of zero-waste shops across the country.
It also sells a wide range of plastic-free alternatives for items people use in their everyday lives such as reusable cups, bamboo toothbrushes,old fashioned shaving brushes and razors and tea strainers.
“The aim of the shop is to reduce plastic usage and food waste but we also want to introduce people to new ideas and encourage people to consider plastic-free alternatives to those items like toothbrushes and tea bags that they use every day,” says Sam, aged 28.
The pair, who also live in the town, began to think about setting up a waste-free shop after spending a year working on organic farms, living almost plastic-free lives.
After leaving the organic farms, they were struck by how challenging it was to do a plastic-free weekly shop in Shropshire.
This gave them the idea of opening a zero waste shop which they say was a natural move as Sam’s background was in waste management and Lillie’s in environmental art and retail.
Sam says working for recycling firms opened his eyes to the volume of single-use plastic items that are being disposed of all the time.
“I realised more needed to be done to reduce the use of these items in the first place, rather than dealing with the problem later,” he tells Weekend.
They opened their shop in April following support from The Shropshire Youth Support Trust (SYST) and the Prince’s Trust.
Since then they’ve attracted many new and regular customers who are keen to avoid plastic packaging.
People are welcome to bring any container they wish to refill with their chosen product and it’s weighed before and after it’s filled.
There are also gluten-free and vegan sections as well as a children’s book swap in the shop.
Sam says it also helps to be open to trying new things when selecting items without packaging.
“People may not be used to seeing things like the beans and pulses in a dried form but they just need soaking. It’s about encouraging people to think differently,” he adds.
Lillie says there are many easy first steps people can take to cut down the amount of plastic in their lives.
“Start with simple things like swapping your toothbrush for a bamboo one, using a natural loufah rather than a plastic sponge, drinking loose tea, using a resuable cup for coffees and always carrying a refillable bottle for water.
“You can then move on to things like the natural deodorants, toothpastes and bars of soap. We get a lot of people saying they had forgotten soap existed in a bar because they are so used to seeing liquid soap,” adds the 29-year-old.
She recommends making a few swaps at a time rather than trying to do everything all at once.
“We get a lot of people who do it room by room. They will come in and say ‘this month I’m going to do the kitchen and next month I’ll do the bathroom’.
“When you are making a swap, always use up what you have first. Don’t just throw them away just because they are plastic. Use them until the end of their life,” says Lillie.
They also aim to keep the running of the business as green as possible. “We order our stock in the biggest container possible to try to minimise waste and we take the sacks to the Environment Centre to be reused.
“There will always be an element of waste in business and that’s why it’s important to find a secondary use for things,” says Sam. Among their range of plastic-free household items are products made by local makers such as Fit Pit natural deodorant from Ludlow, Crafty Mrs B from Telford, who makes reusable cloth sanitary pads and facial rounds, and Pinnawela from Welshpool who crochets washcloths, face pads and soap savers.
They also sell a selection of nut butters made using the nuts they stock in the shop by a friend in Condover.
Sam says their stock range is “growing all time” as they respond to requests from customers and they are always on hand to offer advice to anyone looking for environmentally friendly alternatives.
“There is always something to do or something new to research,” he adds.
They both feel proud that the shop is helping people to rethink their shopping habits and the role it’s playing in helping to reduce the impact of plastic on the environment.
“The shop is about raising awareness of what we are using in a daily lives and cutting down on the every day waste,” says Sam.