June 16, World Refill Day, is coming up and I would like to take this opportunity to dive into the benefits of refills over landfills.
World Refill Day
World Refill Day is a global campaign to prevent plastic pollution and help people produce less waste. We live in a world of convenience, where we take non-renewable natural resources from the ground, make stuff, use them - sometimes just for a few minutes - and throw them away. In the U.S., we are generating about 110 lbs of throwaway plastic a year, per person.
We have been taught that plastic wasn’t so much of a problem because we just needed to “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. The problem is that we know now that recycling plastic does not work.
According to the Last Beach Cleanup and Beyond Plastics last report, only 5 to 6% of plastic waste gets recycled in the US. The problem with plastic recycling is the material in itself. The qualities of plastic that we appreciate so much - its lightweight, insulation, resistance, shapes… - come with hundreds of different chemical additives and colorants which make plastics practically impossible to properly sort out, separate and recycle. Manufacturing new plastic products is actually way cheaper than recycling used ones.
That throwaway culture is damaging our beautiful planet and our very own existence. We have to turn off the tap of disposables and think reusables and refillables instead. One way to drastically reduce your consumption of plastic is to lower our need for new packaging and containers by buying in bulk and refilling the containers we already have.
What is a refillery?
If you shop at Whole Foods, Sprout or Earth Fare, you already are familiar with bulk where you can purchase food and pay by the ounce or pound.
A refillery, refill station, refill shop, zero waste shop - whatever you call it - provides the same service but for your home and personal care products. Think about that bottle of dish soap or shampoo you are about to throw away, it can be reused and refilled!
Actually, 550 million empty shampoo bottles are thrown away each year in the US alone. That number does not include conditioner, lotion, shower gel bottles…
By reusing and refilling your bottles, you not only save plastic from the landfill but you also save energy, transportation, packaging, natural resources and you support your local economy.
At Ekologicall, we have carefully curated a selection of home and body care products that are free of harmful chemicals. We do the research so you don’t have to. Those products are made by small businesses that we source as local as possible. One of our hand and body soap best seller is made in Durham, NC by Fillaree, a women-owned small business. Our wonderful laundry powder is made in Chicago, IL by a couple of engineers who wanted to make clean cleaning products and created Meliora. We went a little bit further for the best hair and body care products and chose Oneka, in Quebec, Canada. Philippe and Stacey grow wild plants on their family farm, using the principles of permaculture and regenerative agriculture. That's just a few examples of the amazing companies we work with and we are very proud of it.
What is a closed-loop system?
Like some grocery stores allow you to buy in bulk, a refillery allows you to refill your containers with home and body care products, but better! Indeed, Zero Waste shop owners have the people and the planet first in mind, profit is also part of the equation for them to live, but honestly if we were doing what we do for the money, we would probably do something else. That being said, what does it mean to care for the people and the planet?
To Ekologicall, that means that we want to lower our impact on the planet, reduce the amount of waste we produce as well as our carbon footprint while making it easy, safe and convenient for the people.
Sourcing our products from local vendors is part of our effort but when our refillable products come in containers that can be reused again and again, it’s even better.
Ekologicall receives most of its refillable products - it can be in the form of liquid but also of powder or cream - in large 5 gallons containers. Once those big jugs are empty, we send them back to our partners, who sanitize them and put them back in use for new orders. That’s what we call a closed-loop system.
Some other partners we work with don’t take back their big containers but send us big plastic pouches to refill our 5 gallons buckets. Once those pouches are empty, we send them back to the manufacturers to be cleaned and put back into circulation. Even if those pouches are made of plastic, the emissions to transport lightweight plastic pouches are less than transporting big containers so it's still better for the environment.
Only a couple of our partners don’t take their containers back. In this case, we offer these for free on FB Buy Nothing groups.
If you are not sure that your local refillery participates in a packaging closed-loop system or not, simply ask them.
How does refill work?
Refilling your containers is easy but it will obviously require a little more effort than just grabbing a new bottle from the shelf at the grocery store.
Here are the steps:
1. Select the product you would like to buy
Ekologicall offers a wide range of refillable home and personal care products:
- Shampoo, conditioner
- Shower gel
- Body lotion
- Hand soap
- Face cream
- Jojoba oil, sweet almond oil
- Dish soap
- Dishwasher pods
- Laundry detergent: powder, sheets, pods and liquid
- All-purpose cleaner
- Castile soap
- Distilled white vinegar
- Vegetable wash
- Pet SOS cleaner
- Make-up brush cleaner
The list with all the scents available can be found here.
If you don’t see the product you are looking for, feel free to reach out to me, Valerie, I will be happy to add that product to our selection if there is enough demand.
We can’t bring all of our products to the market so to make sure we bring what you need, please contact us at contact@ekologicall or through DM on social media @ekologicall.
2. Prepare your containers (or not)
You can use any type of container for your refills. It can be an old plastic bottle, a glass jar, or a metal container. As long as it is clean and dry, we are happy to refill it.
If you don’t have a container, you can either purchase the product in its original packaging or you can borrow one from our donated ones.
If your order is home delivered, put your empty containers outside your front door and we will take care of the rest. If you need us to provide you with a container, add it to your order or let us know you’d like one of the repurposed jars.
3. Tare your containers
Your container(s) will be tared, that means that the scale will be set to zero. So only the weight of the product you need will be weighted.
4. Fill them up
We will fill up your container(s) with the product of your choice. This can be done at the market or directly at your doorstep.
5. Re-weight your containers
Once the container is filled up, we weigh it again and get the number of ounces you wanted.
You only pay for the number of ounces you need, not the weight of the container.
For our home delivery service, you have two options available:
- You know how many ounces of product you need and directly place the order online
- You don’t how many ounces your container holds, in this case, we will refill your container(s) and send you the invoice via email.
7. Enjoy and repeat!
You’ve just saved a container or several from the landfill, reduced carbon emissions and supported a small business, you deserve a high five!
Once those containers are empty, you just repeat the above again and again!
Ekologicall will soon be offering a subscription program where you can select the refill you need, how often you need it and save money! Stay on the lookout for more information.
The process can be different from one refillery to another so make sure to check your zero waste website or reach out to them directly for more information.
What about food pantry items?
As mentioned earlier, grocery stores such as Whole Foods, Sprout, Earth Fare or the Fresh Market offer a selection a products available in bulk. Some stores allow you to bring your own containers to the deli shop so you don't need the plastic and paper to wrap meat or fish.
For Charlotteans, check our sustainable guide that includes a list of stores that will help you reduce the packaging of your food and more. For our readers outside of Charlotte, NC, check LitterLess.com
Have you already joined the Refill Revolution? What is your experience so far? If not, what prevents you from it?
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