Plastic Free July Day 9 - Closing the Refill Loop

The number of shampoo bottles thrown out in the United States every year could fill 1,164 football fields. When considering this statistic on a global scale, the numbers get even more dire. 

Luckily, there are plenty of plastic-free options for necessities like shampoo and conditioner, including buying them in refillable containers. This is where it gets tricky, however. Using refill or bulk systems (where you fill up your own individual container from a larger bulk container) is a wonderful way to reduce plastic waste. However, in our plastic reliant world, many consumers don’t realize the waste that often occurs behind the scenes. Many bulk stores receive their bulk goods in large containers, but then once they’re empty, there's a chance that these large containers are sent to recycling or landfill. While recycling large bulk containers is better than lots and lots of individual packaging, it’s still not a totally single use plastic free option for those of us trying to reduce our impact. 

Here at Fillgood, we get lots of questions from you about how and where we get our bulk products. 

Our goal is to work with companies, local whenever possible, who will take back and refill the containers that we receive our products in, therefore officially closing the loop and creating a process where nothing gets sent to landfill or recycling. While this is an ongoing process, we’ve had a lot of exciting successes that we want to share with you!

One of our new partners is Puretergent, which is a laundry detergent company based out of San Leandro. Not only are their products grey-water safe, hypoallergenic, and high efficiency, our partnership with them is waste-free. Puretergent delivers to us their detergents in 5 gallon containers, and when they’re empty they pick them up and the very same containers are filled right back up. 

Another company we love to work with is Bathing Culture, who supplies us with a luxurious body wash (totally plastic free). We receive the natural body wash from this San Francisco based brand in a cute one gallon glass tumbler, and when you’ve used it all up (in store only!) we bring it back and they refill it for us. 

If you’ve been with us for a while, you’re certainly familiar with our shampoo bars from the wonderful LAMissApple, based in LA. LAMissApple also supplies us with a repairing coconut and jasmine hair mask as well as a makeup remover, all plastic free. LAMissApple sends us the products in jars, and when you’ve finished your container you can bring it back to us, and we will send it to LAMissApple to be cleaned and refilled for our next shipment!

Unfortunately, some of our products don’t come to us totally plastic-free. 

For instance, our Biokleen laundry, dishwasher, and bleach powders come to us in a big plastic bag inside a cardboard box. We also receive our Dr. Bronner soaps in big, one-gallon jugs. In both of these instances, our solution at Fillgood is to reuse- the jugs are reused as 1 gallon laundry detergent refills (that we take back, clean and refill again), and the plastic bags serve as trash bags (anyone else think it’s crazy that we buy plastic bags to hold our trash?). 

While we try our best to keep our products local, there are also some great refill brands that we work with across the country. Some of our most popular products are our Plaine Products for bath and body (think body wash, lotion, shampoo, conditioner, face moisturizer, etc.) that come in aluminum containers. The first time you purchase a product, it comes with a bottle cap and a pump. Once you’ve finished the last of your product, you keep the pump and bring us back the bottle with the cap on. We ship them back to Plaine Products in Ohio (we even reuse their boxes!), who sanitizes and refills those bottles to be reused by the next customer. Totally plastic-free!

We have a similar set-up with New York-based brand Meow Meow Tweet, which is where we get our amazing natural deodorant in bulk (in store only!). The products come in large containers, and when we’re out they fill them back up and send them our way again.

We love the refill service that these brands do to prevent anything from being sent to landfill or recycling, and we want to support them.

We also know that shipping across the country has a larger carbon footprint, it's hard to check all the boxes. That’s why we’re also trying to work with more local brands that are willing to help us close the loop-- let us know in the comments if there are other brands in the Bay Area or California you think we should be working with! 

Regardless of where you’re shopping, we love buying in bulk! If you’re looking for some refill options near you, check out or Zero Waste Home and start reusing those old yogurt tubs and random glass jars to fill up on your favorite products. If you are already loyal to your favorite bulk store, ask them how they receive their bulk items, and encourage them to work with their suppliers and close the loop by reusing and refilling their bulk containers instead of sending them to landfill or recycling. 

Join the conversation!