Plaine Products partners with over 270 retail stores and refill shops across the USA to make our products more accessible for you. We are pleased to share with you one of these stores, Fillgood, to tell you more about them and their history. Read on to learn more about Fillgood, what they carry and their hopes for the future. (And if you are looking for a retail store near you, search here.)
What inspired you to start Fillgood?
I was inspired to start Fillgood when I took a class about recycling in San Francisco in 2016. I was shocked to learn how much plastic we throw away each day and the fact that recycling is not a viable long-term solution. From the oil well to the landfill, plastic is polluting our air, water, and land, and having a major impact on low-income communities. It’s an environmental justice issue. These communities are exposed to toxic chemicals and other environmental hazards related to plastic manufacturing. In addition, we now know that less than 5% of plastic is actually recycled and that almost every piece of plastic ever manufactured still exists. Each of us even ingests the equivalent of a plastic credit card every week!
All this made it very clear to me that reducing our plastic consumption, especially single-use plastic packaging, was crucial. These plastics are not designed to last and we throw them away, replacing them with new ones, which only leads to more waste and more resources being extracted. I created Fillgood to show that there is an alternative to this unsustainable cycle.
Tell us about the early days, how did you get started?
When Fillgood first started, I wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to switch to refillable packaging, so I created an online store with home deliveries – a bit like a modern-day milkman! At the beginning, the website only had about 30 products (now we have over 400!), with a focus on home, bath and body products, no food. We would deliver once a week in 3 different areas. We still offer this same service today: our customers get their orders in a reusable bag, the liquid and powder products are packaged in glass jars, and they can return their bags and empties at the next delivery. It was important to me to also provide safe, non-toxic products to our customers. That’s why we carefully screen ingredient lists before introducing any new product, to ensure it won’t have any potential negative impacts on health or the environment.
What do operations look like now?
Two years after launching, I opened a store in Albany – the first refill store in the East Bay! It was a hit with customers who wanted to bring their own containers and refill them in-store. A year later, in August 2020, during the pandemic, we moved to a bigger location in Berkeley with high foot traffic. Now we’re a team of 6, running our brick and mortar store and home deliveries. We offer 400 products, including over 100 in bulk, and serve customers all around the Bay Area. It’s been an incredible journey and we’re looking forward to continuing to serve our community!
What are you most proud of?
I’m incredibly proud of our closed loop partnerships with brands like Plaine Products! When I started Fillgood, it was difficult to find companies willing to take back their empty bulk containers or jars/bottles to be cleaned and refilled. Putting these containers in the recycling bin didn’t fit with our mission either. Now, while the number of companies offering closed-loop is still limited, it’s growing. Every time we join forces with a new closed loop partner, it’s a huge victory in the battle against single use plastics.
What has been the most challenging?
Besides finding closed-loop partners, there’s also the public perception of zero waste stores, which can be discouraging. Many folks believe that zero waste products are too expensive and only accessible to wealthier people. When we receive feedback like this in the store, we try to explain that you can actually save money in the long run with many zero waste items. For instance, a stainless steel razor will last a lifetime and each new blade only costs 30 cents, which is cheaper than a disposable plastic razor. Solid dish soap is also a great swap – a single brick can replace 2 to 3 bottles of liquid dish soap.
But living a low waste life is not just about buying new products. Most of the time, you actually don’t need to buy anything at all to reduce waste, you can reuse, repair, or get the things you need for free thanks to groups like Buy Nothing. It’s a very creative journey! We hope that this
perception of zero waste stores will change quickly, because reducing single-use plastics requires a collective effort in order to make a real, systemic change.
What are your most popular products?
Our most popular products include laundry detergent, dish soap, hand soap, and hair care products – all the essentials people use day-to-day that are usually packaged in plastic bottles. We absolutely love seeing people bring their own bottles and jars for refills or swapping for solid products – it’s a huge win for the planet!
What are the hardest zero waste items to find?
Some zero waste items can definitely be a challenge. Right now, I would love to find a fully compostable toothbrush that works well. I’m still on the hunt for one! Another zero waste item I would love to see is a refillable floss pick – it would be particularly helpful for kids, and would replace millions of the disposable picks out there. If you know of any companies that make these products, please let me know – I’d love to hear about them!
What are you excited about for the future?
The recent UN conference about a Global Plastics Treaty is giving me hope. It’s an amazing effort to reduce the amount of plastic pollution that is damaging our planet. It shows how plastic pollution has become such a worldwide issue that it’s time for countries to take it very seriously and regulate this industry. This treaty is designed to create a framework for countries to cooperate and create policies to reduce the production and consumption of single-use plastics. In the meantime, single-use plastic bans across the world are on the rise. These bans are a positive step in the right direction to reduce the amount of plastic waste and an important way to put pressure on companies to create more sustainable packaging solutions. But bans cannot cover every single-use plastics, that’s why we must continue to find ways to drastically reduce our plastic consumption, for the sake of our home planet, our children and our health.