South Africa: Step Inside Joburg's First Plastic-Free Packaging Store

The Refillery, Johannesburg's very first plastic-free grocery store, is helping South Africans fill their pantries, while addressing the plastic pollution crisis.

The store, owned and co-founded by Sam and Dom Moleta, opened its doors in Cedar Square, Fourways two months ago.

Dom told News24 the idea of the Refillery was born in 2018 when the Moleta family participated in their first "plastic-free July" - a global challenge which sees people "choose to refuse" single-use plastic during July.

"We participated in that and found it challenging in a number of ways and it sort of sparked the idea of: how could we make this easier? And what can we do to reduce the plastic consumption issue that we've got?" Dom says.

Sam told News24 that they first realised the destruction plastic wreaks on the environment when they travelled at sea.

Rude awakening

"It was a bit of a rude awakening for us."

"We have two small kids now and we want them to see the world in all her glory... but without the piles of garbage and plastic that's destroying it."

But explaining to a two and three-year-old why they can't have the ice cream of their choice because of the plastic wrapper has been difficult, says Sam.

"They are learning, they'll learn through us... but to explain to them that they can't have the pink one because it's in plastic is quite tough. So that's been a hard ask on them."

The Refillery sells a wide range of products in bulk, all without any packaging.

One-stop shop

Customers can find anything from dry goods, vinegar and olive oil, detergents and personal hygiene products to items that promote a zero waste lifestyle such as reusable coffee cups, beeswax wraps and bamboo toothbrushes. They hope to add fresh produce to the list soon.

"We want to be able to be your one-stop shop," Dom says.

Customers can buy quantities ranging from 5g to 5kg and are encouraged to bring their containers from home.

The goods are weighed, and the weight of the container is subtracted from the overall spend. The Refillery also sells glass jars for those who wish to start their own plastic free pantries.

Pushing the boundaries

Sam says they are very proud that there is no single-use plastic in the store.

"It was a huge challenge to find suppliers who were willing to change their packaging for us, because we are also very small... so a lot of people just said 'no' off the bat. Now we are working with suppliers to make it completely a single-use plastic free chain," says Sam.

They're pushing the boundaries as far as they can - even the stationery used in their office is plastic free.

"We've got to live the brand and we'd be hypocritical if we weren't. So we have to try in every way we can to eliminate, not only single-use plastics, but wasteful packaging or wasteful receipts."

The Refillery doesn't print receipts automatically, only when people ask for them.

"All those little things can add up to having an impact," he says.

Source: News24

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