In our New Year’s blog post, we mentioned that one of the most important actions you can take is to understand the trash you generate. To do this, we recommend doing a trash audit to take a look at the disposables that end up in your landfill bin, and then find Zero Waste Replacements.
A Trash Audit is an informative and important action for businesses to take as well as individuals.
At Fillgood, we regularly get questions from our community about the packaging our items come in and what we do with refill containers when they’re empty-- basically, what is (and isn’t) in our trash? By the way, thank you for these questions and for thinking about the whole supply chain when you make a purchase, not just the end product!
What is not in our trash?
One of our commitments as a refill store is to “close the loop.” On one level, that means that when you come into the store with your empty containers, we help you refill them over and over again in an endless “loop” of refills that puts nothing in the trash or recycling on your end.
We take that same concept to our suppliers too.
After all, what’s the point of a plastic-free business that reduces your waste at home but creates a ton of trash behind the scenes?
We are happy to share with you what we have achieved so far. Out of 52 bulk products:
71% come in containers that will be cleaned and refilled by the brand, with the same product
19% come in containers that will be cleaned and refilled by us, with another product
When you fill up on laundry soap, dish soap, cleaners, castile soap, shampoo, conditioner and more, it’s a completely closed loop that creates no single use waste -- no trash, no recycling, no compost. So be sure to return all your containers to close the loop with us!
4% come in a recyclable/compostable paper bag
6% come in a large plastic bag that we reuse as a trash bag. At least we never have to buy trash bags! ;)
We have a similar mindset for our packaged non-bulk items, too.
For instance, when you buy a Plaine Products hand wash or body lotion, you can return the empty bottle to our store. We will send it back to Plaine Products, where it's going to be cleaned and refilled. We even reuse the cardboard boxes the bottles come in! The same goes for our LAMissApple and Tap Tap Organics products in glass containers.
Although we’re working on convincing them, some of our suppliers aren’t able to provide this service. However, we still find ways to close the loop. When you bring back metal and glass containers that can’t be refilled by the supplier, we sanitize and reuse them for bulk products, samples, or for our jar library to use for free when you come in the store.
In addition, we have cut disposables out of almost all the products that we need to keep the store running and organized. This includes items like our cleaning supplies, office supplies from Wisdom Supply, and reused rags from old clothing to mop up spills. Even the price labels that line our shelves are reused paper attached with reusable poster putty!
Last but not least: let’s talk about cardboard, a precious resource! All our products come in cardboard boxes. Although recycling is a great option for this material, reusing is always better, which is why we use them to ship orders and organize orders on delivery days. We also donate boxes all year long on our local Buy Nothing Group! If you're moving, need shipping materials, want to convert your lawn to a low water landscape, or are a teacher in need of craft materials, definitely reach out-- we will happily give you what we have.
What is in our trash?
As The Zero Waste Chef says, “we don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly, we need millions of people doing it imperfectly”. We totally agree with that, and recognize that it’s impossible to be perfectly plastic-free! We try very hard to keep plastic and disposables out of our supply chain and store operations, and have cut down wherever possible.
As a result, we only produce one 2lb bag of trash every month. Not bad right? For context, the EPA states that the average American creates 4lbs of trash per day!
This bag contains all the trash we generated in a month!
So what does end up in our trash?
Plastic tape and fiber reinforced paper tape: Most of our suppliers ship us items in cardboard boxes with paper packing materials and paper tape. Unfortunately some of them still use plastic tape or paper tape with polyester fibers that must be removed before the boxes can be recycled.
The plastic-free solution: many of our suppliers use non-reinforced water activated paper tape, it works just as well.
Plastic film and small plastic bags: The jars we use for refills delivered at home come in a cardboard box, but with plastic wrapping to protect the glass. We try to minimize the amount of jars we buy by reusing and refilling returned jars (please return your jars to us when your order!) and have been using more reused jars donated by our community. However, the plastic wrapping still ends up in our trash.
Labels and stickers: A third common item in our trash bin is shipping labels, products labels and bar code stickers. Paper or plastic, they have to be put in the trash, they cannot be recycled or composted. And so do the sticker release liners who are coated with silicone and cannot be recycled!
These take up a very small amount of space but most are inevitable: how do we ask UPS and USPS to switch to paper shipping labels glued by hand ? Can you imagine products without bar codes?
We also throw away little things including plastic trash we pick up on the sidewalk everyday in front of the store, dust from cleaning the floor, pencils shavings, small plastic pieces like seals, or broken spigots.
You know what's the best about this? Finding new ways to avoid waste is fun and requires us to be very creative!
It's a team effort, that also leads to very interesting discussions with our suppliers. We are all on a journey towards a plastic-free future, and it’s important to celebrate our success as well as recognize the places in our lives where we can still make changes.
What about you? Comment items that you’re still struggling to bring into your life without plastic-- someone might be able to offer a solution!