Recently, as multiple lockdowns took effect to slow the spread of coronavirus, people began spending more time at home, and had essentials including groceries and food delivered to their doorstep. This led to an increase in the amount of single-waste 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.
“Many people believe that they cannot turn sustainable because of two reasons — cost and convenience. So, to make things easy, we have come up with a truck retrofitted with a refill machine that dispenses various types of floor cleaners, sanitisers, handwashes, and laundry detergents. Consumers can avail our service to refill already-existing containers with the product,” says Lokesh Sambhwani (24), a graduate of H.R College of Commerce and Economics, who has started this initiative with four others. He adds that the aim behind the initiative is to create a circular economy and reduce the packaging waste generated.
In an interview with The Better India, the team shares 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, sanitized, and refilled,” says 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,” says Lokesh.
Refilling 1000 litres
Finally, 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,” says Lokesh.
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.”
To date, they have catered to 300 customers in Mumbai, refilled 1,000 litres of home products, and prevented 10,000 bottles from entering landfills. For the future, the team hopes to partner with brands like Unilever, Nivea and more to offer refills on their products.
To purchase their products, or for more information, visit their website.