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REFILL DEPOT - Igniting a refill revolution for everyday products

REFILL DEPOT has created the most technologically advance refill systems that reduce and eliminates plastic packaging for everyday products.

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen
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REFILL DEPOT has created the most technologically advance refill systems that reduces and eliminates plastic packaging for everyday products such as laundry detergent, liquid soap, cleaning products, motor oil and more.  

Our mission is to transform the retail buying experience from - buy, throw away, buy again - to reuse over and over again. We have designed the most efficient refill system that is not just for water but for all other liquid products such as shampoo, conditioner, liquid soaps, motor oil, cleaning supplies and much more. We don’t have to throw away plastic packaging after only one use, we can bring back to the store to refill over and over again at a discounted price. 

REFILL DEPOT systems are designed for placement inside big box retail or an outdoor kiosk perfect for stores such as Walmart, Target, Costco, Whole Foods and others.

Refill Depot systems offer up to 17 dispensers in 1 unit that dispenses. RD is the most efficient, low energy, low costs, quiet, quick and efficient solution. 

REFILL DEPOT features include: 

Backend Automation: No backend pump, so very low electricity usage. The automated system provides continuous product feed, minimal staff time needed saving costs.

Innovative Nozzle: Advance design for no spillage.

Advanced Tablet Point of Sale System: Uses a tablet display with advanced sensor technology to track size of the bottle, amount, type, and user data for customer profiling, promotions and savings for repeat users.

24/7 Self-Service System:  Machines can operate both indoor and outdoors requiring minimal energy usage and drainage.

Patent Approved:  Approved in USA and Australia, Int’l patent in progress. 

Limitless Opportunity: System is currently designed for any liquid products. But can also be designed to for powder, granular and small item products, both edible and non-edible. 

REFILL DEPOT mission is to transform our current distribution delivery and selling model and move us to a reuse culture.  To tackle the challenge of small format plastic pollution, we need to eliminate packaging in distribution, lower the plastic waste costs for retailers, and give customers a new way of buying everyday products.  Our solution tackles the waste issues with small bottles, caps, bottle caps, labels and more.

We are igniting a REFILL REVOLUTION to save suppliers, manufacturers, retailers, government and people the high costs of the health crisis of plastic pollution!

REFILL DEPOT Awards & Nomination:

2011:  Innovate Manitoba - Launchpad phase -  received $1,000 award

2015: Nominated for Katerva Award Global Sustainability Sponsored by Thomson Reuters, nominated by Nanotech Scientist, Dr. Melanie Lagrange from France. Winner - Ocean Cleanup by Boyan Slat.


2015:  Big Time Media, Australia, by Piers Warren 

2016: Entrepreneur with Toni Guffei, Associate Professor, University of Calgary

2016 - Minli Huang (Red River College Intl Business Student - Marketing)  Video of Refill Depot Introduction

Idea Title

REFILL DEPOT - The Refill Revolution eliminates plastic packaging waste globally!

Company / Organization Name

Refill Depot & The Refillery

Website (Website coming soon!)

Where are you / your team located?

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

We believe that the root cause of global plastic pollution problem is not packaging but in our global distribution model. Industry delivers everyday products in single use plastics. We MUST revolutionize our buying habits to a REFILL & REUSE culture with not only plastic bags but bottles and packaging as well. RD eliminates small format plastic packaging waste such as bottle caps, labels and plastic rings that are a detriment to the health of the planet.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

REFILL DEPOT tackles our global crisis with single-use plastics for liquid items by offering a convenient way for customers like Rajata, Mark, and Saatwika to buy their products from a REFILL DEPOT. Our systems offer small format refill options that each of these customers can use a refill jar, tube or container. No longer will they have to buy their everyday products in small format single-use plastics that are polluting their local towns and waterways.

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

We plan to launch the REFILL DEPOT STORE in Winnipeg, Canada. We have identified options for a retail location with a goal to be in full operation in approximately six months. We will test, refine and collect data from this pilot location.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

The first step is to launch the REFILL DEPOT store to test, refine, and collect user data for constant improvement. This is crucial to the success of REFILL DEPOT. We are currently seeking funding and researching partnerships in construction, solar, technology, manufacturing and more. Phase 2 we envision: Franchise the REFILL DEPOT Stores Sell REFILL DEPOT systems and kiosks

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.
  • Prototyping: You have conducted some small tests or experiments with prospective users and will continue developing idea through these tests.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

Currently, REFILL DEPOT is at funding stage for startup location and designing a system implementation plan for retail locations. The opportunity to work with the New Plastic Economy Accelerator would provide endless resources and possibilities. The Accelerator Program would provide key business insight, testing, key funding and awareness needed for the launch of REFILL DEPOT.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

I was informed by my neighbor about our failing recycling system and suggested I watch the documentary “Garbage”. This was my AHA moment about recycling, I thought “What an completely non-efficient system. We can design better”. As a concerned mother of two pre-teens, in 2010 I began researching our recycling process visiting recycling plants and conducting intense research. With my 35 years of experience in technology efficient design, I signed a partnership with PureFlow H20.

Tell us about your work experience

Award-winning 35 year retired technology efficiency specialist worked for IBM and Air Canada. Two awards for IBM Automation Awards & Employee of the Month at Air Canada.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

Refill Depot Inc. is registered in Winnipeg, Canada. Currently registered as a C-Corp, in process to become a B-Corp.

Please describe, in detail, your business model and how you intend to test and iterate this model.

REFILL DEPOT business model -Phase 1 REFILL DEPOT STORE: We plan to open a REFILL DEPOT store in Winnipeg, Canada that sells brand name eco and organic cleaning and personal hygiene products available for customers and commercial/wholesale. REFILL DEPOT STORE includes: 24/7 Drive-in self-service kiosk 24/7 Walk-In self-service that can be inside a store or pre-fab kiosk Storefront with staff service open from 9 am to 9 pm for customers assisted purchasing and delivery services

Please explain how your innovation will work within, potentially improve, and provide benefit to the plastics system.

We believe REFILL DEPOT will improve our current plastic distribution system by tackling the root of the problem at the source - upstream. Our current plastic system is focused on downstream solutions, we must find the root source. REFILL DEPOT reduces and eliminates plastic packaging at the root source - distribution. To tackle the challenge of small format plastic pollution, we need to eliminate packaging in distribution, lower costs and give users a new way to shop!

Please describe, in depth, how your solution will reduce the overall environmental footprint of packaging.

REFILL DEPOT reduces and eliminates the need for plastic packaging. By transforming the way distribute & buy products, we can eliminate plastic packaging waste worldwide. Additionally, removing packaging will reduce product costs 20%+, all products would appear to be at the sale price. As REFILL DEPOT grows, our purchasing volumes will increase which will result in further savings for our customers. And by switching to a REFILL & REUSE culture, we can reduce up to 75% of plastic packaging waste

Please outline how your design, material, and delivery choices will influence price, and how you intend to address the price increase that may result from this solution.

RD will decrease costs for suppliers, retailers, and customers by 20% by reducing packaging.

Please explain how your solution will impact user behavior, and what design considerations you've included to ensure easy and intuitive interactions with your Idea. 

Following the behavior changes we have seen with bans on plastic bags and users getting used to bringing their own bags, we believe that these consumers are ready to take the next step in REFILL & REUSE behavior. We have designed a user-friendly, tech advanced system that will allow for videos, instructions, ingredients, user profiles, and more.

Please describe how you intend to use the prize funding, if selected as a Top Idea. Be specific.

Prize funding will go towards the launch for research & development, consumer data, equipment, manufacturing, store lease, products, marketing, operating costs.
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Team (4)

Colleen's profile
Juli's profile
Juli Schulz

Role added on team:

"Juli specializes in marketing and communication for purpose-driven companies/organizations. Juli is a sustainable professional with a strong background in Resource Recovery/Zero Waste Management from California Resource Recovery Association. She is a public speaker for Surfrider's Rise Above Plastics Program and volunteers as a Board Member for The 5 Gyres Institute. She is a huge asset to developing our concept, vision, mission and overall brand."

Elizabeth's profile
Elizabeth Zampolli

Role added on team:

"Elizabeth is a sustainability profession with a retail design background. Her knowledge about sustainability and retail design is very valuable for Refill Depot store."

Marcus's profile
Marcus Eriksen

Role added on team:

"Founder of The 5 Gyres Institute & LeapLab, Marcus' feedback, and comments are highly respected and well received. We are lucky to have his knowledge on our side! He has a new book out called 'Junk Raft' that everyone in this challenge should read!!"


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