The shop which has already set out its stall to get rid of packaging

One shop in north London has already placed itself on the front line of the plastic bag revolution.

As well as banishing non-biodegradable carriers from behind the till, it has taken away almost all of its packaging, leaving shoppers to bring in their own jars, pots and bags to be filled with their day's groceries.

Catherine Conway, the owner of Unpackaged in Islington, which opened last week, said the idea came to her when she was decanting rice from packets into jars at home. "It made me think there must be a way of taking out this process," said the 30-year-old.

In her new shop, wooden crates overflow with organic vegetables that are put straight into customers' bags, vats of olive oil are on tap to refill their own bottles, and barrels of environmentally friendly detergent can be poured straight into containers brought from home.

Dried foods such as pulses, nuts and rice are arranged in square containers in the centre of the shop, while hand-made chocolates and fudge stand in traditional glass jars above the counter. Joy Schendledecker had come – carrying a cotton bag – with her five-month-old baby to buy environmentally friendly toothpaste.

"I bring my own bags because it is cheaper and better for the environment," she said, adding: "It's common in America to be able to buy health food in bulk, but it does not seem to happen over here."

Customers can scoop the loose food into any container they like. One came in last week with an exquisitely decorated porcelain vase to collect his rice.

For those who forget their containers, reusable ziplock bags are provided, but that means an extra 50p on the bill. "If people know they can save money by using them again, they will, so it works well," said the shopkeeper.