As the focus on plastic intensifies, re-filling is gaining greater impetus.

It's being dubbed a "refillution" – the trend towards refilling, a sustainability practice that could dramatically slash the number of plastic bottles being used.

Refilling bottles with products ranging from shampoo to household cleaners is catching on, and could make a huge difference to the environment because it means using far fewer containers.

And if those bottles are sustainably produced in the first place, leaving a much lower carbon footprint, it's an even bigger step towards looking after our planet.

New Zealand firm ecostore is leading the way when it comes to encouraging the practice of refilling bottles. In one year, Kiwis have refilled bottles with over 30,000 litres of the company's cleaning and personal care products – that's the same size as a home water tank.


Ecostore has over 60 refill stations throughout the country at locations including retailers like Good For, Bin Inn and Huckleberry, and is delighted to see that more and more people are embracing the "refillution".

Ecostore is taking the 'refillution' trend one step further by pledging its commitment to increase the sales of bulk packs through refill stations by over 140% over the next five years. The firm's commitment was published when it signed the 2018 New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in collaboration with the UN Environment, to help eradicate plastic waste and pollution at the source.

"Our customers are very interested in doing what they can to use less plastic and they love the concept of re-using bottles," says Angie Baur, wholesale business manager for ecostore. "We're definitely seeing a lot more people coming back instore with their containers, especially at weekends. It has become a habit, like recycling, and once you start doing it, you don't want to go back. You know you are making a difference. "

So far, bottles can be refilled with the majority of liquids produced by ecostore.

"Liquids are very easy to refill and you are only paying for the product, not the container."

The fact ecostore's bottles are made of carbon-reducing sugar plastic is another big bonus for the environment. Sugar plastic is made from sugar cane, which is renewable and takes carbon out of the atmosphere as it grows.

Since moving to sugar plastic bottles in 2014, ecostore has saved just under 4500 tonnes of carbon from being released into the air, which is the equivalent of emissions caused by driving a car from Cape Reinga to Bluff 8500 times.

The company has worked out that if every Kiwi home used sugar plastic bottles for their household cleaning and body care products for a year, 43,000 tonnes of carbon would be saved from being released into the atmosphere. That's the same as taking 9200 cars off the road or planting more than a million trees.


Sugar plastic is also recyclable and, because it is as hardy as traditional plastic made from petrochemicals, ecostore's bottles can be repeatedly refilled for between five and 10 years.

"Just wash it, and you can use it over and over for many years," says Baur. "Think how many bottles you will save in that time."

She says ecostore is keen to have refill stations at hundreds of locations throughout the country. Savvy consumers – who have adapted over the years to environmentally-friendly practices like separating their household rubbish into landfill and recycling, and who are now getting used to taking reusable bags to the supermarket – will come to expect it, she says.

Richard Lees, the chief executive of Huckleberry agrees the refilling movement is being consumer-led, and is taking off.

"Refillution is a great word for it. It is not a fad, it is something people are looking into as a standard way of shopping. A lot of people really want to minimise their impact on the environment."

Huckleberry, which has encouraged its customers to refill their ecostore containers at four of its 10 stores, applauds making it easier for people to re-use packaging.

"Refilling is better than recycling – especially with the current challenges with recycling no longer being able to be sent to China," says Lees. "But if you are re-using containers, you are getting a much longer life span out of them and less is going to the recycling plant."

Another bonus of refilling is that customers can decide how much product they want, rather than having to buy it in the amounts available.

"If you have got a 700ml container but you only want 300mls, then at Huckleberry's you can fill it up to 300mls and just pay for what you get," says Lees, pointing out this not only saves money but also possibly waste.

While refilling does mean having to remember to take bottles with you when you go shopping and seeking out refill stations, that's not a problem for people who care about what we're doing to the planet, he says: "People are a lot more conscious about the effect that things like packaging can have, and we have some very organised shoppers who want to do what they can to create zero waste. Refilling is a great way to start doing that."