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Zero Waste: local stores offer refill stations for cleaning and beauty products

The bulk section at West Seattle's Public Goods and Services. (Public Goods and Services)

Ever since I became aware of the Zero Waste movement, and started cutting back on single use products, all I see is plastic. The grocery store, the drug store: just rows and rows of plastic. The hardest place to eliminate plastic containers is in the bathroom and under the sink. Shampoo, cleaning products, lotion, laundry detergent. How can we avoid these plastic containers?

In the Seattle area there is a way. There are now a handful of shops that offer these products in bulk, including Public Goods and Services in West Seattle.

“[People can] refill their shampoos, their conditioners,” said Public Goods and Services‘ owner, Jolene Dobson. “I have toothpaste that you can refill here from a local company in Redmond. All the laundry detergents they could possibly want, also for your dish soap, dishwasher. Hand soaps and some personal care products for your face.”

You can buy a glass container or bring in the empty plastic ones you already have.

“I have had several old Tide bottles in here. I’d rather see you bring in what you have rather than go to the landfills. So let’s just continue to encourage reuse.”

Dobson understands that people are only going to refill their bottles if it’s convenient for them.

“I basically want these to become like bodegas of New York. I want one in every neighborhood and then it will force a change. You just have to make it as convenient as a grocery store.”

She says she’s already had several people ask her about franchising her shop.

If you’re not in West Seattle, check out The Recology Store.

“We have four stores. We have one in Shoreline, one in Burien, one in Bothell and one in Issaquah,” said Erin Harbour, retail sales manager for The Recology Stores.

Recology does garbage, recycling and compost pickup for 10 local municipalities.

“Issaquah requested that we have a physical location where people could come to drop off hard-to-recycle items. So Styrofoam, batteries, electronics. Recology had the great idea to develop it into a retail store so we could also sell items that help reduce waste.”

The result is a cute, colorful store that sells practical things like reusable water bottles and reusable plastic baggies.

“The average American uses 400 to 500 plastic bags a year,” said Harbour. “So it’s an easy switch, you just buy one set of these and you can continue to use them.”

The Recology Store also has a bulk section.

“We offer cheap bulk and then we also offer a higher-end handmade bulk. We have laundry detergent, dish soap, pods in bulk and we also have dish washing blocks which are really neat because they eliminate the need for plastic. We really focus on keeping the cost as low as possible and keeping it at MSRP so people know that zero waste options are accessible to them. The don’t have to be incredibly high-end.”

For people to actually adopt this lifestyle the price has the be right and it has to be easy.

“I just wish that more conventional grocery stores would offer the ability to refill because people want to do it,” Dobson said. “I have so many people coming in here and they’re just ecstatic that they can bring their bottles here and refill them because they don’t want to create more trash. There’s just not the infrastructure available to us to go and do it ourselves and these big grocery stores have the money. They can do this pretty simply, in my opinion.”

Grocery stores like PCC and Town and Country Markets have bulk products like shampoos and soaps and there’s a shop called Eco Collective in Ballard.

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