Ella Shone’s small electric truck used to deliver milk but now she drives it around London, selling groceries and household goods that are free of plastic packaging.
The 32-year-old bought her “top-up truck” last year after the first coronavirus lockdown got her thinking about innovative ways to reduce waste.
She has found plenty of demand for her service, with customers scooping up dry groceries such as lentils or filling bottles from large dispensers of vinegar or washing detergent.
On a rainy day in May, the 32-year-old plied a route to eight stops in the up-and-coming district of Hackney in northeast London.
“It’s very straightforward: it’s a bit like a go-cart ride,” she said of driving the truck, which has a top speed of 30 miles (48 kilometres) per hour.
But she admitted the steering can get “a bit bumpy”.
At one stop, three customers bought dried mango, pasta, raisins and shampoo.
The mobile shop was created to bring “packaging-free” shopping to people’s doors, tapping into a growing demand for deliveries during the stay-at-home restrictions.
“I felt that there was a need to make it easier, to make it more accessible, more visible,” she said.
Nevertheless, she wasn’t immediately sure her idea was viable.
“When I started this, I thought I’d gone a bit mad on furlough leave”, she admitted.
During the lockdown, Shone was on government-subsidised leave from her job in sales at a company producing sustainable condiments.
She decided to buy the truck with the money she saved during the lockdown, wanting to offer a “community shopping experience”.
The truck deliveries launched in August last year and customers can book a stop online.
The electric vehicles — known commonly as milk floats — were once commonly used by milkmen and women to deliver pint bottles of fresh milk on household doorsteps.
Customers returned them for reuse and Shone says her truck prompts a “nostalgic” reaction.
But she is responding to very current concerns over plastic packaging, which disintegrates over time, creating ubiquitous microplastic pollution.
Activism targeting governments and corporations can help, she said, but added: “I think there’s a lot that needs to be done at the consumer level.”