MELBOURNE NEWS

Sustainability

Guide to waste-free shopping at Queen Victoria Market

18 March 2024

Bring your reusable containers and bags to Queen Victoria Market to check off your whole shopping list, including meat, fish, cheese, antipasti, wine, olive oil, grains, fruit, vegies and even shampoo. 

More and more Melburnians are changing the way they do their grocery shopping to help save waste from landfill and live more sustainably. 

Queen Victoria Market offers waste-free alternatives to almost every packaged grocery item, alongside hearty servings of cost savings and community connection.  

Shop waste-free with Bettina 

Bettina de Chateaubourg has worked at Queen Victoria Market for 10 years. She started as a tour guide, and she’s now the Tours and Visitor Experience Coordinator. 

Low-waste living isn’t something new for Bettina – the routine of shopping with her powder-blue vintage trolley, old flour sacks and reused containers is innate, and a great source of joy. 

“I’ve lived a low-waste life ever since I left home. When I lived in share houses in my 20s we all went to the market, and we got boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables from farms,” Bettina said.

A perk of Bettina’s job is buying her groceries on site during her working week. Many of her colleagues do the same, deepening their connection to the market and its traders. 

A person shopping for fresh fruit and veg at a market
Bettina picks up fresh groceries on her lunch break

But Bettina’s love for Queen Victoria Market isn’t contained to her nine-to-five. She’s back on weekends to soak up the spirit of the numerous multicultural festivals and do her ‘big shops’.  

“When you shop at the market, you know that what you’re buying is super fresh, and you can ask for the exact weight you need, so nothing is wasted,” Bettina said. 

“The traders are the produce experts. They know what the cucumbers or apples are like on any given day, what cheeses to buy and what to pair them with. We even swap recipes. These are great interactions – you don’t get that at the supermarket.” 

Check off your shopping list 

Bettina says she can get just about everything she needs at Queen Victoria Market, except for toothpaste.

Beyond bananas and broccoli, there are plenty of specialty and gourmet items that can also be purchased waste-free. 

A person buying meat at a butcher's counter, using their own plastic container
Bettina buying some meat in her own plastic container

Head to Bill’s Farm to pick up Meredith Dairy Goat Cheese in your own jar, or browse the beloved Dairy Hall for smallgoods, antipasti, pastries or any other treat that takes your fancy. 

Bring a cloth bag to purchase grains, pulses, dried fruits at Market Organics. And forget the cleaning aisle at the supermarket – refill your dishwashing liquid at Soapbox

Then head to Rewine where you can refill bottles with premium wine straight from the barrel, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, gin, Bellini bubbles, ‘Boofhead’ chilli oil (named in honour of a trader’s cat) and more.

Browse more market traders.

Many wines stacked on shelves in a shop
Head to Rewine to refill wine bottles straight from the barrel

How to prepare for a waste-free shop 

Queen Victoria Market has a plastic bag ban in place and encourages the use of cloth bags, reusable containers and coffee cups. You can even buy them on site. 

But remember, you don’t need to use aesthetic bags and containers when you shop waste-free – takeaway containers, recycled tubs and even bags made from old t-shirts work just fine. 

“Bring along plastic containers for meat, fish, cheese and butter. Bring jars for dips and antipasti. And bring cloth bags, or reused plastic bags, for your fruit and veg,” Bettina said. 

“All the traders are very comfortable weighing and using your reusable containers. Just make sure the containers are really clean so they’re pleasant for the traders to handle.” 

A person selecting a yellow cauliflower from an opulent display of vegetables at a market
Source the freshest produce with local recommendations

If you get caught short without a bag, Bettina encourages you to use paper bags at your fruiterer, or just buy produce loose. 

“Many fruits and vegetables don’t need to be put in a bag because they have their own skin – like bananas and mangoes, to name a few,” Bettina said. 

“Bring a trolley so you can put items straight in and get around easily. You can also pick up a box from one of our box stations, or ask a trader – they always have spare boxes on hand.” 

A smiling person in a market food hall with a power blue vintage shopping trolley and a tote bag that reads 'Queen Victoria Market'
Bettina with her trusty vintage trolley, which holds her reusable containers and produce bags

Treasured connections 

Beyond waste-free shopping, one of the biggest benefits of spending time at Queen Victoria Market is the community forged over the counters and between the pallets. 

In times of joy and grief, the market family wraps itself around each other, providing meals, wine, friendship or just a friendly hello. A packed program of festivals also brings diverse people together.

“I don’t know what I would do without working here. Everyone looks out for each other, and the vibe of Queen Victoria Market is just so uplifting,” Bettina said. 

“Beyond being a great place to shop, the market’s cultural festivals are so heart-warming. And the Melbourne Book Market is on at the weekend, so you can always go home with a great read.” 

A trader chats with a customer over the counter of a market shop with a cabinet of olives and antipasti
Friendly traders offer an enticing array of antipasti, cheese, pasta and more in the beloved Dairy Hall

Shaping Queen Victoria Market for the future 

The historic Queen Victoria Market is the biggest open-air market in the southern hemisphere, spanning seven hectares and housing almost 600 traders. 

The market is one of Melbourne’s top tourist attractions, and the City of Melbourne has made the Queen Victoria Market Precinct Renewal its biggest investment to date. 

Alongside renewal works – like shed restoration, modernising trader amenities and turning the car park into a vibrant public space – sustainability is a primary goal. 

Fast facts

Here are some of Queen Victoria Market’s sustainable practices and achievements:

  • The market is on track to achieve its ambitious sustainability target of producing zero carbon and sending zero waste to landfill by 2027. 
  • The market recycles more than 700 tonnes of cardboard and polystyrene every year. 
  • Offcuts from butchers and fishmongers are turned into pet food at an offsite facility with approximately 560 tonnes of meat and fish waste recycled in a year. 
  • More than 530 kg of coffee grounds from market cafes and restaurants are sent off site every month, with the fruit and vegetable waste and converted from waste to energy. 
  • On-site worm farms convert smaller volumes of food scraps into nutrient-filled fertiliser, which is then used on potted trees and plants throughout the market. 
  • Customers can refill water bottles at six fountains located around the market. 
  • Single-use plastic bags and straws are banned. 
  • Sustainable shopping tours are available for market customers from time to time throughout the year, in addition to a packed program of foodie experiences 

Learn more about sustainability at Queen Victoria Market

Plan your shopping trip at Queen Victoria Market 

The market is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. To learn more, visit Queen Victoria Market

A display of lobsters and prawns at a fishmonger
Treat yourself to oysters or succulent lobster in the Meat and Fish Hall

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