Tag shops accepting that customers bring their own containers

Hey everyone,

There is currently a discussion in the German and French forums about how to tag shops accepting that their customers bring their own containers to buy products. We would like to open this discussion at international level.

Here are the links to the discussions on the German and French forums that I’ll resume below:

Purpose of the tag

More and more people try to buy their products without packaging in order to reduce their amount of waste. It’s not always easy to find shops selling bulk products (in the sense of buying the right quantity of a product which is not packaged yet) and shops accepting that we buy their products without packaging or using a re-usable package.

Mapping these shops is a way to help these people in their ecological engagement. For instance, in France with the Mieux trier à Nantes organization we’ve built this website to help people finding bulk products: https://cartovrac.fr. This map is based on OpenStreetMap for the data with a frequent update using Overpass API to filter shops with the bulk_purchase tag. A lot of maps exist in almost all countries but they are not necessarily based on open-data sources.

Today a tag exists to tag shop selling bulk products : bulk_purchase. But the name of this tag is not clear and this tag does not cover shops like bakery, pastry, butcher shop, fish shop … that accept to sell products in a reusable container.

In my opinion there are two kinds of services proposed by shops to distinguish here:

1) Shops selling bulk products

These shops sell bulk products. Meaning that the clients can choose the exact quantity of the products they want and they are often free to serve themselves. It’s easy in that case to choose which container you will use as a customer. However, every shops don’t accept to deduce the weight of the container so in that case the container has to be light weight (reusable paper or light-weight fabric) and some shops, even if it’s pretty rare, will refuse that customers bring their own containers for “hygienic reasons” or other reasons.

This kind of shops is a nice solution for people who want to reduce their packaging but also for people who want to buy small quantities of products or the right quantity of product (the quantity necessary to bake a cake, no more no less, for example).

We often find this solution in small conveniences (some are even selling only bulk products) and in supermarkets, especially in supermarkets dedicated to organic products.

What helps to identify this kind of shops is the equipment used: a silo (often vertical, it’s a huge box with a handle to ease customers to serve themselves). It could also be a bag or a box. This also exists for liquid products (washing liquid, vinegar, oils …). Here is an example with a candy silo:

Today, the name and description of this tag are not clear enough:

  • For some people “bulk purchase” means “buying large quantities of products for a lower price” but I don’t think that’s the goal of the bulk_purchase tag. A tag name like loose_goods or loose_items could be more adapted in my opinion.

Also, some people start to use it to tag bakeries, butcher’ shops … I’m not sure that’s adapted. Even if for these shops the products are directly put on the stand without packaging before buying it, the customer is not the one who takes/selects the products. It’s often done by a seller. The approach is not the same and the customer is not free to have the product without packaging expect if he explicitly asks for it. I think we should complete the documentation in order to limit it to products in silos/box where the user is the one to take the product. Otherwise, all bakeries could have the tag.

2) Shops accepting that customers bring reusable containers

These shops are not necessarily shops who sell “bulk products”. It could be any shop that accepts that people bring their own containers to buy a food product, soap, detergent … A shop that has bulk products, as described above, is not necessarily a shop who accept reusable containers. Some shops selling bulk products will only accept that their customers use the paper bags proposed by the shop.

Shops accepting reusable containers are often conveniences and supermarkets selling bulk products, greengrocers, bakeries, butcher’s shops, fish shops, delis, chocolate shops, cake shops, but it could also be restaurants or fast foods which accept reusable containers for a takeaway service. In my opinion, this could also apply for vendor machines with packaging in option (milk vending machine, orange juice, bread and vegetables/fruits distributors …).

Most of the time, if the customer wants to buy the products without packaging he has to ask the seller for it and sometimes the shops deny the request. This could be demoralizing especially for shy people. It’s rare that the seller proposes himself to not package the product or to use a reusable container. Some organizations like Zero Waste are trying to make the task easier for customers by proposing stickers to shops to put on the shop window. Below is an example of sticker from Zero Waste Lille in France. On these sticker we often see “bring your own containers” or “We like your jars” … It’s easier for customers to ask the product in a reusable container when a sign says that the shop accepts that service. It also means that the seller will know why the customers ask for it.

Also, some shops even propose some reusable packaging. They have a kind of deposit you pay once and reuse (sometimes the shop even cleans it for you: you give the old one when coming back to the shop and you get clean one for your new purchases), or even packaging customers give to the shop, the shop cleans it and proposes it back to all clients for free (often using glass jars that we find for jam, tomato sauce … that people usually use once and put to trash).

In my opinion, this kind of shops could be tagged in OpenStreetMap but in order to tag them, the service should be easy to identify physically on the shop: a sticker on the shop window, a sign hand-made by the shop saying “here you can bring your reusable containers” or a shop that explicitly says “Zero waste shop” meaning that the philosophy is not to sell packaging.

Some proposals of tag names have already been made in different topics:

  • customer_wrapping_solutions_accepted
  • bring_your_own_packaging
  • bring_your_own_containers
  • zero_waste_buy
  • zero_waste
  • bring_your_own_container
  • packagefree
  • bring_packaging
  • accept_reusable_containers

The values associated are: no (the shop does not display that it accepts reusable containers), yes (the shop accepts), only (the shop expects that customers bring their own packaging or use reusable one from the shop).

Currently, some people are starting to use the zero_waste tag. I agree with the wiki but I would add the sticker/display rule explained above to limit it to shops who physically display it. However I disagree with the name of the tag.

zero_waste is the reason why most of the customers will look for shops accepting reusable containers but it does not describe the service itself.
It’s like tagging vegetarian restaurants with animal_protection. Even if many people looking for this option do it for the animal purpose, some just do it because they don’t like meat/fish, and other do it for ecological purpose.
I think the tag should reflect the service itself and the most objectively possible. Personally I like the accept_reusable_containers idea someone proposed on the OSM - Help forum. It’s explicit and describes what the shop does.

What do you think about:

  • renaming the bulk_purchase tag to something more explicit?
  • completing the bulk_purchase tag wiki to precise that it only concerns the shops selling bulk products where the customer can choose the quantity and serve himself?
  • renaming the zero_waste tag to something that describes more explicitly the service?
  • adding the rule about displaying the service in the shop to tag it with the “accept_reusable_containers” or whatever the tag name is?

This is a long post with a lot of thoughts and multiple questions but in my organization we think about it since more than two years and a lot of topics are discussing it. Also, I think these two tags will often be searched together by people even if they have different meanings. Some shops will be possible to tag with bulk_purchase but not with the “accept_reusable_containers” tag, some others it will be the reverse, and some shops will have both.

I don’t have time for long reply to this post right now. But it seems to me that all participants in this discussion don’t speak English as their first language and I’m worried we’ll end up with language problems in the wiki again.

If no native speakers join the discussion, I can forward the English wiki text to an American friend who has been proof reading texts like these professionally for many years and sort linguistic matters out with her. The English version is meant to be the fundamental one while the others are merely thought of as translations, isn’t it?

zero_waste was my initial idea for a tag for a specific type of shop. I have changed my mind about the name of this tag, because I think it’s not flexible enough and doesn’t describe the process for the customer. Some version of bring_packaging would be better for an international community.

I love the French sticker! It won’t be that easy in Germany I’m afraid. I learned that German regulations make it hard for shops to accept customer packaging.

@AJojo44 Thank you for the detailed contribution.
I am of the opinion that first of all the thought that the tag “bulk_purchase” is the wrong one to mark zero-waste shops has not yet reached many mappers.
First of all a video. (Everything gladly from large containers into the plastic bag locally)!
Otherwise, I agree that it takes a time of its own to mark shops that accept your own packaging. The tag “zero-waste”, created by me, has its justification, but it can only mark “Zero Waste” shops. But the term “zero waste” is so widespread that a day of one’s own certainly makes sense.
I’m still thinking about which designation would be good for the acceptance of “Please bring packaging”. I find “accept_reusable_containers” clearly too long, this has to be written into the OSM editor at the beginning. A short term without an underscore would make sense.
In addition, it should also be used to describe deposit containers, which can also be purchased.



Here’s what I suggest:
A new tagging scheme with the base tag “packaging”
However, the base tag is provided with a comma string to include several possibilities. Not every mapper likes that.

packaging = conventional, provided, own , mixed

If required:

packaging:no_plastik = only / yes / no
packaging:own = only / accepted / yes / no
packaging:buy = yes / no
packaging:deposit = yes / no

The tagging scheme would fit for all shops.

I like the idea!

conventional, provided, own , mixed

I think a list is fine, but I cannot intuitively understand the values you chose. “own” works. The others are less specific.

packaging:no_plastik = only / yes / no

I don’t see the point of this tag. I also think it would be hard to determine if a shop has only packaging without plastic and almost any shop also has some packaging without plastic, glass bottles for example.

packaging:own = only / accepted / yes / no
packaging:buy = yes / no
packaging:deposit = yes / no

I like the idea, but I don’t quite see how this can work as a system. A zero waste shop might sell glass jars for products like dried fruit, have typical deposit bottles for beer and specific deposit bottles for the exotic type of liquid cleaner they sell. That tagging would end up looking confusing.

An organic food store may accept customer packaging for meat and cheese bought at the service counter, have typical deposit bottles for beer and sell most goods in disposable packaging, including meat and cheese bought from the self service refrigerator.

You see, shops are complicated and I assume that’s going to get worse as soon as zero waste and organic stores start merging. It may make sense to define good tags for typical situations now and add more tags to the same system later when we learn how well the exisiting tags work.

Since it is so difficult to find a general tagging scheme for packaging, sustainability and economy, I am also in favour of building this tagging scheme step by step. It would also be good if several people from around the world took part. That is not just a problem in France and Germany.
Basically, I think a new tagging scheme could be set up with the basic tag “packaging”.
But it’s not only about the packaging, but also about the very high tagging share with “bulk_purchase” in France and Germany. We should realize that this tagging is not correct and in a first step here redefinitions should take place.
Even the classification of a store or a market with “bulk_purchase” is not always correct. (Often not!)
I would like to stay here in Europe and not automatically transfer the business philosophy from the USA or the Far East. That doesn’t work.
So we have to discuss at least 3 new tagging proposals.

  1. the purchase of goods via large containers in any quantities.
  2. the philosophy “packaging-free”
  3. the possibility of shopping with your own packaging.

This will be a difficult discussion, also because it should take place internationally.

P.S. (Sorry, in German) @Anna Linux : Entschuldigung, das ich nicht dein Post direkt beantwortet habe. Es geht mir hier im internationalen Forum erst einmal um Grundsätzliches. Leider habe ich morgen keine Zeit. Du erhältst aber auf alle Fälle einen Antwort-Post. Danke für dein Engagement. (Das Tagging ist kompliziert und wir müssen es international etablieren)

Even though the state I live in has banned single use bags for most shopping, I am not aware of any store in my area that allows you to “bring your own packaging”. There are proposals at the state level to ban all single use packaging which might in the future move all stores to allow or even strongly encourage bringing your own packaging.

In the meantime, the only place I’ve heard of this type thing was via BBC world news where they mentioned some locations in Britain that do this. Since there are British English native speakers who subscribe to the tagging email list https://lists.openstreetmap.org/listinfo/tagging. I think the tagging email list functions poorly but in this case I suspect this topic should be brought up there. There may be a suggestion or two that is useful.

@Rogehm I think your proposal is a good start but as @Anna_linux says it’s difficult to generalize it to a whole store. This is maybe because it’s too specific. Also, we should play more on the values and add rules on the value not to make every shops qualified to have the tag.

packaging:no_plastik = only / yes / no - That tag seems clear and for me there is a difference between yes and only that allows to know if the shop does it for part of its products or for all of them. But I think the difference between yes and no is not enough. A shop that sells only one or two products without plastic shouldn’t be tag with the yes value because it doesn’t really help customers to buy without plastic packaging. Therefore there should be a minimum percentage of products without plastic to be qualified as a shop selling goods without plastic. Also, I think there’s a typo in the name of the tag. I believe we write “plastic” and not “plastik”.

packaging:own = only / accepted / yes / no - that tag is interesting. Also, I’ll like to attach here an article from Zero Waste France who created an event to identify shops accepting reusable containers: https://www.zerowastefrance.org/cp-post-marathon-mczd/ (french article). More than 600 shops joined the action in France. But here, what is underlined and searched by the zero waste community is not to just bring own containers but to be able to buy products in reusable packaging. And for me it’s different. A container that the customer reuse multiple times (such as a paper bag) is a reusable packaging, a fabric bag crafted by the customer also is a deposit proposed by the shop is also a reusable container even if the customer has to purchase it the first time then get back the money once bringing it back, and lastly some shops propose reusable containers (reused jars left by other customers for instance) for free to their clients without the need of bringing the container back later and that’s different than a deposit in that way.

packaging:buy = yes / no - I don’t get the meaning of this tag. Is it a deposit you have to pay for or a reusable packaging you won’t be able to give back to the shop?

packaging:own, packaging:buy (if I understand the meaning correctly) and packaging:deposit have something in common: they are reusable containers. Maybe a dozen of times for some of then (paper bags reused and accepted as reused by the shop) and hundreds or thousands of time for glass jars. A simplification at the beginning could be to merge these 3 categories in one tag? packaging:reusable with a clear description of what is considered as reusable packaging and that it could come from the shop or the customer and that it could be a free container, a deposit or a container to buy and reuse.

@n76 I agree that this conversation will find some help on the tagging mailing list but the channel is more complicated to exchange. Maybe we should continue here for a few days in order to improve the discussion and to know precisely what has to be tagged and then we ask for help on how to tag it.

. There are much more places than you think who encourage their customers to bring their own packaging. In France there are between 100 and 200 shops selling all (or almost all) their products without packaging. They are called “Magasins vrac” which is translated to “Bulk shops” in english (that’s why the confusion exist with the bulk tag). Most of these shops propose reusable glass jars as containers that the customers bring and give to the shop when coming and customers can also use their own paper/fabric/glass containers.

Since OSM likes to use UK centric English, my note of the BBC article was intended to see if there is an established set of UK terms for this type of thing. As a native American English speaker my suggestions, like those of a non-native English speaker, would probably be off the mark.

Regarding the tags proposed by Rogehm:

“Own” is bad, it could mean anything: the store uses its own packaging, the product comes with its own packaging, or customers should bring their own packaging.
“Buy”, does that mean customers have to buy packaging and aren’t allowed to bring reusable ones themselves?
“Conventional” assumes that the convention will remain to pre-package stuff, which would ideally not be the case.

Honestly I think these packaging:= tags are making things a bit too complex. Would you expect mappers to inspect all products to map a shop as “waste avoiding”? Do you expect any data consumer to be interested in this precise information?

I would propose to start with a simple tag and if desired add subtags to it. I think the most important criterion would be that the shop encourages customers to avoid waste (or at least allows them to, without giving them strange looks).

Side note: coincidentally I had started a proposal for low_waste two weeks ago. Maybe we can find a better tag.

I realize that my suggestion is not particularly well thought out, especially a comma series in the basic tag (packaging). A lot is happening in German shops in the short term.
ALDI has announced that it will no longer issue thin plastic bags for free (1 Ct.). Everywhere now reusable nets are offered for repeated use for vegetables / fruit for little money. Even with the description that this packaging should not be weighed. And you will surely find more things. Unfortunately, I don’t have much time today and tomorrow to think about something in more detail. Thank you for your commitment. We will surely find a meaningful tagging together, even if it is complicated and can take some time.

Regarding the proposal made by M!dgard:

I’m not sure that the difference between


is clear enough to be easy to use and agree on tagged shop.

Also, I don’t think


are the best name choices for a shop that follow the description you gave:

A shop can sell products without packaging or with reusable packaging and produce a lot of waste. This is difficult to measure and judge because most of the waste is produced behind the scenes. Therefore, I think the name of the tag should be really precise concerning the description and should mention that it concerns the packaging.

Your description of the low_waste is mostly about the re-usability of the packaging. I think it’s a good start to go. In my opinion it’s the easiest way not to produce package-waste for a shop. As explained above, shops can work with different approaches concerning re-usable packaging:

  • shops can accept that customers bring their own containers (glass jars, reused paper bag, fabric bag, or even no packaging like buying bread and bringing it back in the hand to home…)
  • shops can propose reusable packaging for free or with deposit (glass jar, special plastic bottles …).

I think we shouldn’t consider recyclable & compostable packagings in that tag. They are not of the same level of involvement. Even if they are recyclable and compostable, the highest environmental cost of these packagings is to produce them and re-produce them for recycling (high energy & water cost). Re-using, means produce once and re-use multiple times until it’s not reusable anymore.

What do you think about these tag names: reusable_packaging:offer and reusable_packaging:accept with values:

  • yes
  • only
  • no

Definition by examples:

  • a shop that accepts that customers use their own container: reusable_packaging:offer=no & reusable_packaging:accept=yes
  • a shop that sells some products with a deposit or that provides the reusable packaging and accepts the customer’s ones: reusable_packaging:offer=yes & reusable_packaging:accept=yes
  • a shop that sells all its products with a deposit or that provides the reusable packaging for all products and accept customer’s ones: reusable_packaging:offer=only & reusable_packaging:accept=only
  • a shop that sells all its products accepting only reusable containers but that doesn’t provide any: reusable_packaging:offer=no & reusable_packaging:accept=only
  • a shop that sells some products with a reusable packaging but doesn’t accept that customers bring their own: reusable_packaging:offer=no & reusable_packaging:accept=only
  • a shot that doesn’t accept reusable container at all: reusable_packaging:offer=no & reusable_packaging:accept=no

What do you think of that proposal?

I dont have anything to add to the conversation and will defer to more senior mappers thoughts on this, I only will say I think this is a good idea. Personally, I try to frequent venues that are conscious of these matters.

What about

? This doesn’t seem ambiguous.
@AJojo44, apparently you don’t have the DGCCRF (répression des fraudes) active in your neighborhood. Scarabée Biocoop had to remove the egg packaging brought by the customers as they had no cleaning installation for that (I’m not joking, they were serious about that). CIELE (RIP) had to write a specific letter to their lunch bag provider so that they could use directly the bags provided by the customer (here CIELE) without cleaning them again.
Both located in Rennes and neighborhood.

But I’ve a more fundamental issue with the tag: are there places for bulk_purchase where the customer can’t bring his container? For legal reason in France for chemical products you have to reuse the original packaging. For instance you bought shampoo XXX and you need a XXX bottle to feel it with shampoo XXX. You can’t reuse it for shampoo YYY. But it’s valid everywhere, no need to tag each location.

I don’t think it describes the possibilities correctly.

For instance for eggs, I can bring my egg cartons (), I can take a new plastic egg container (that I can later reuse), or take a new egg carton from the self.
) as said earlier, I can’t let it stay at the shop - on market, they still do, maybe they don’t have the same crazy bureaucrat ^^.

Hi trial,

For instance for eggs, I can bring my egg cartons (*), I can take a new plastic egg container (that I can later reuse), or take a new egg carton from the self.

For me the description you give with the egg box case is respecting: “using reusable packaging” as you can bring back your box and buy new eggs with it. Reusing the packaging is allowed by the shop. Maybe the description of the tag I proposed is not good. I opened a feature proposal about it: https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Proposed_features/reusable_packaging Feel free to contribute.

are there places for bulk_purchase where the customer can’t bring his container?

If we consider the description the bulk_purchase tag: https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Key:bulk_purchase

Some Naturalia shops sell product without packaging (using their Silo). It’s called “Vrac” in french because you choose the exact quantity you want. But in fact, you have to use the shop’s paper bags to buy the product and you can’t bring your own container.

Maybe tagging Naturalia with the bulk_purchase tag is a mistake but in that case we should improve the bulk_purchase tag description to clearly explain what should be a bulk_purchase shop and what shouldn’t.

Also, “bulk purchase” is not a good wording solution as it means in most of the cases “buying in large quantities” mostly for price purposes. And it doesn’t means that there is no packaging.

Renaming the bulk_purchase tag is maybe the best solution.

I don’t think it describes the possibilities correctly.

Why? What would you propose?

Thanks for you contribution :slight_smile:


I’ve read this page and the “Proposed features/reusable packaging” one and it would really be a good idea to be able to have relevant tags for those shops in particular because, as it’s briefly mentioned on the wiki page, in France we have several small NGOs which have already been working to identify shop where clients can come with there own containers. They give stickers (like the one shown in the 1st post of this thread) to those shops (so it’s easy to identify them afterwards), and they fill this data in an open database. Since there’s not such tag, communecter.org is used instead.
A map with those shops can be seen on https://www.communecter.org/network/default/index?src=https://turri.fr/mczd.json
(disclaimer: I’m volunteering for one of those NGOs, hence my motivation on this topic)

Long story short: being able to tag those shop on OSM would:

  • make sense since there are already roughly 1000 shops matching this criteria just in France
  • make it possible for several NGOs to contribute to OSM instead of duplicating the work

Also, my two cents regarding how I think it would make sense to implement it:

  • as it’s mentioned on the wiki page, shops with recyclable packaging should NOT be tagged: it’s really not the same thing has being able to reuse a same container
  • admitedly there might be several corner cases or subtelties. For instance a shop where you can bring your own container isn’t the same as a shop with refundable containers that you are supposed to bring back afterwards (there are also shops where you have to buy the container of the shop the 1st time and you can reuse it afterward). But the result is the same since the container is reused. Long story short: I think something as simple as reusable_packaging with value no, yes or only which would fit all those case would make sense.

Anyway, I’m quite new in the OSM community and I’m not sure what would be the best way to encourage the creation of this tag. Don’t hesitate to let me know what would be the best way to proceed.

The tag proposal process is documented on the wiki

The most effective way is to have the tag show up in editor presets, which largely depends on tag usage, so it’s a bit “chicken and egg”. It sounds like something that you’d need to have to be there to discover, so maybe mention to the authors of https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Vespucci , https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/StreetComplete and https://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/Go_Map!! etc.?