• Sarah Lovejoy

Why refill?? Well why not??

Unless you’ve been living under a rock – most of us are aware of the environmental disaster that is happening around the world. There are many strings to this statement and it’s a complicated issue; Carbon footprint, Plastic waste, Decreasing habitats and eco systems. It’s a depressing read and a lot of us will view the problem as being too big to do anything about. But do we not have a responsibility to try? Are we now a society that gives up and goes home so easily?

Plastic pollution is just one element but one which we actually have some control over. We can all make reasonable adjustments to our lifestyles whereas other elements maybe completely out of our immediate control.

If you’ve never been brave enough to venture into a zero waste/plastic free/refill shop, they are really not the stereo-typical scary environment that many believe them to be. Most are independently owned by people who have given up careers because they felt that the problem needs addressing and our society needs change and choices away from the big corporations. These corporations have a less than satisfactory record on ethics including sourcing raw materials; worker’s rights (slavery and poor working conditions); profits and taxation; political donations; dubious investment records (such as Arms trades); animal testing 🐰. They have put the onus of plastic waste onto the customer, making it our responsibility to ensure it is disposed of in the correct manor and paying little attention to a widespread issue as it affects their bottom line and profit margins. Many have now resorted to small tweaks here and there but shout loud about how responsible they are to the environment and yet the pessimist in me feels this is mainly a marketing strategy and “greenwashing” at it’s best.

Most zero waste shops use a similar model and source the bulk of their ingredients from UK suppliers, many of these being family owned companies, co-operatives, community interest companies and individual makers. For our cleaning products we use 2 companies. The first being a family owned company based in Yorkshire who produce a range of cruelty-free vegan biodegradable and palm-oil free products for the home. Our second supplier is a Social Enterprise company based in Oxford who go to great lengths to ensure they use suppliers with strong ethics in human, animal and environmental rights. Both companies offer these products in a closed loop supply chain which I’ll explain a bit more about later.

Lots of every day products contain a mix of chemicals which I can’t pronounce and have been shown to cause issues to both the user and environment, particularly water courses. Our suppliers ensure their products are free from the worst offenders: Parabens, Chlorine Bleaches, Optical Brightener, Thiazolinones, Sulphites, Methylisothiazolinone (CMIT), Gluten, Alcohol, SLS, ALS, ALES, Formaldehyde or Phosphates.

The above list of concoctions are cheap to manufacture and is the reason why several companies can supply products at £1 bottle or less.

Is it worth paying a little extra to refill with a product that doesn’t contain as many harmful ingredients, has been sourced responsibly and is offered as a refill?

Some of the common questions we get asked about refilling include:

Is it time consuming?

Is it expensive?

What do I need to bring?

Does it work?

What’s a closed loop system?

So lets address some of these:-

You can come to a physical shop or order online. You can arrange to drop off bottles to be refilled or you can elect to have items delivered to you. Everyone’s scenario is different so we try and accommodate as many of these as possible. If you are Andover based we are happy to pick up your items for re-filling and drop these back to you or we can deliver to other areas using donated and gifted receptacles. We like to get to know our customers and address their requirements as much as possible.

It does take a bit of thinking about and organisation and every household is different on how they approach it. It’s simply a case of getting into your own groove. But we are a small shop so you can’t get lost or be tempted by things you didn’t really need (apart from chocolate 🍫 but we all need chocolate – right!) and we have parking right outside.

As discussed, the ingredients and supply chains involved are very different from many mainstream products and so yes products are a different price point to these. But they are not so ridiculously priced that lots of people cannot make a few small swaps. It’s a complicated issue and the best way to sum it up is something I tell my children – “It’s cheap for a reason”. Instead of asking “Is it expensive?” the narrative should be “Why is it so cheap?”

I will say that most people wouldn’t notice much difference re-filling their washing up liquid bottle and this is the one I always advise people to start with. Most of us have this bottle already so it’s easy to bring this along and refill. It’s a simple process, weigh your bottle, fill up using a pump system and hand it over to be re-weighed and paid for. The weight of the bottle is deducted so you only pay for the product itself. Simple!

We accept most clean items to be re-filled so you can use items that you already own.

Lots of people worry that the products don’t work as well. They work fine but because they don’t contain the same list of Sulphates etc you may well notice small differences. The main contentious one is bubbles. Sulphates make bubbles but are also a skin irritant so you tend not to find them in more eco products. Years of marketing have convinced us all we need bubbles in our life to clean our dishes and bodies. Sorry! We don’t! So our washing up liquid may not be as bubbly but nor does it need to be.

Once our 20L and 200L drums are empty they get collected on the next delivery run. They are washed, sanitised and re-filled ready to be sent to the next shop. Delivery routes are collated to be the most efficient for Carbon Footprint purposes. I’m sure in the future these will be electric vans. This is a Closed Loop supply chain and results in no wastage.

I have seen lots of companies advertising they operate a Closed Loop system when in fact the containers are merely recycled and not re-used. Re-using is always preferable to Recycling as this uses lots of resources and energy. So next time you pop your Washing up Liquid bottle in the Recycling bin, why not go and fish it out again, wash it and try re-filling instead. The environment will be glad you did.💚

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