There are many elements to a functioning circular economy which aren’t new at all. As you look through many of the elements on One Circular World, you are probably reminded of stuff your parents or grandparents just used to do anyway. This is the same for Refilling. Even though zero waste and refill stores have boomed online and on our high streets over the last five years, the practice has been around for a long, long time.

Remember the huge bulk-buy bins of loose flour or dried fruit where you bought what you needed? That’s a form of self-Refilling. Or opening the front door to see a glass bottle of milk sitting on the doorstep? That’s Refilling by the manufacturer. Or sending back pop/soda bottles to the store and getting a few pennies deposit? That’s Refilling with a ‘deposit return scheme’ added in.

And of course, we still have these practices now – and they are having a huge resurgence in popularity as people seek to eliminate single-use materials from their homes and lives. Plastic in particular is being ditched in favour of glass, metal or even reusable/refillable cotton bags.

Now, we can’t talk about Refilling without talking about materials. It may feel very virtuous ditching a single-use plastic bag and using a single-use paper bag, but on just that single-use basis, the paper bag could have a carbon footprint 3x higher than that of the plastic bag. Eeeesh. Of course we should be eliminating anything single-use, and Refilling offers that opportunity. Whatever you are Refilling, do it again, and again, and again.

So what can you Refill? Beans, pulses, grains, nuts, seeds, cereals, sugars, coffee, tea, spices… even biscuits. And not just dry goods – laundry liquids, cleaning concentrates, shampoo… If you have a Zero Waste Store, Bulk Buy Store, Zero Packaging Store – or even a reasonable sized supermarket nearby, it is likely you will have options to find Refills, where you can buy exactly the amount you need.

So, want to start Refilling?

  • seek out your local Refill store and see what they stock. Look for terms like ‘zero waste’, ‘packaging free’, ‘plastic free’, as well as ‘refill’.
  • take your own containers for Refilling. Choose Reuse over single-use – and get them weighed at the store so you can fill them up.
  • no store nearby? You could look at the home delivery Refill system of companies such as Loop (UK and US).

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