To reduce packaging waste generated in households, Mumbai-based startup Refillable Store provides refilling of homecare products, including detergents, in reusable containers.
Mumbai’s refill delivery service for personal and home care products
Imagine a milkman delivery service but for soap, dish washing liquid, detergents etc. Here you only fill what you need. Bring a half-empty/full container and they top up the rest. You only pay for what you need — Brilliant!
Lockdowns have led to an increase in the amount of households single-use plastic generated
As multiple lockdowns in India were put in place to slow the spread of coronavirus, people began spending more time at home, having essentials such as groceries and food delivered to their doorstep. This led to an increase in the amount of single-use plastic generated at the household level. A survey conducted by Mumbai-based environmental social enterprise, Earth5R, found that there was a 47% rise in single-use plastics in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi and Pune.
To tackle this, Refillable Store, a Mumbai-based startup, launched an initiative to reduce packaging waste from entering landfills. They introduced a refill delivery service for personal and home care products including detergents and cleaners that are used regularly.
creating a circular economy to reducing packaging waste
Many Indians believe that they can’t become more sustainable due to two reasons — cost and convenience. So, to make things easy, five friends came up with a solution: a truck retrofitted with a refill machine that dispenses various types of floor cleaners, sanitisers, handwashes, and laundry detergents.
“Consumers can avail themselves of the service to refill already-existing containers with the product,” Lokesh Sambhwani (24), a graduate of H.R College of Commerce and Economics, who started this initiative with four friends, told The Better India. He added that the aim behind the initiative is to create a circular economy and reduce the packaging waste generated.
REFILLING 1000 LITRES
Soon, the team partnered with five brands including Rossari, Herbal Strategi and Ecosys to supply the raw materials. The initiative was launched on World Environment Day, 05 June 2020, among close circles through word of mouth. Customers would have to choose the number and quantity of products they require and pay for them beforehand. Based on the available slot, the team reaches the location and refills the containers.
“The container can be anything of the customer’s choice. It could be a plastic bottle or a glass jar. However, if they do not have one, they could purchase a reusable steel container from us. During delivery, if other residents wish to try our service, on the spot, we allow them to do so and accept online or cash payments,” Lokesh told The Better India.
refill trucks have prevented 10,000 plastic bottles from entering landfills
In a recent interview with The Better India, the team shared how one of refill trucks has prevented 10,000 plastic bottles from entering landfills.
The Refillable Store has been launched under a parent company named Recube Circular Solutions. In 2019, when a temporary ban on plastics was imposed across India, Lokesh Sambhwani and his friends — Purav Desai, Rahul Batra, Nishith Jardosh, and Anupriya Nayyar — came up with a B2B service named Recube Circular Solutions. They built technology-enabled systems that track reusable products.
“We sell home products in reusable containers and keep track of it. Once they are empty, we pick them up from the user, and send it to collection centres where they will be cleaned, sanitised, and refilled,” said Lokesh.
However, once the pandemic hit, the team had to change their strategy to directly cater to consumers. Instead of collecting the bottles and sending them to recycling centres, the team offered to refill the product.
“To offer more convenience, like a grocery or milk delivery service, we bought a Bajaj truck, retrofitted it with a refill station and decided to provide home delivery. The refill station was designed using IoT systems with the help of an in-house engineer and an external consultant with experience in the same field,” said Lokesh.
What’s the service like?
Manali Joshi, a resident of Mumbai works as a Company Secretary for a healthcare management company. She has been actively working on generating less waste and came across Refillable’s solution through an Instagram page.
She says, “I have been using their service since December and it is very efficient. The price is similar to what we would purchase outside, however, there is zero-waste generated. Because of their home delivery services, the entire shopping process has been made more convenient.”
So far, they have catered to 300 customers in Mumbai, refilled 1,000 litres of home products, and prevented 10,000 bottles from entering landfills. In future, the team hopes to partner with market-leading brands such as Unilever, Nivea and more to offer refills on their products.
Subscriptions are available for even more savings. To browse or purchase their products, or for more information visit their website and Facebook page.
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Rob Greenfield is an adventurer, activist, humanitarian, and dude making a difference. He is dedicated to leading the way to a more sustainable and just world.