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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!!"


Join the conversation:

Photo of Claudia Morales

We need something like this in big urban cities to start a new way of using everyday products . We need this in Chicago.

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Hi Claudia,
Thank you for your positive feedback, reuse efficiency creates smart sustainable savings: economically and environmentally.
We have rebranded to: Save Our Planet Refillery
If you would like to add Chicago to the list, please send a email to:
with your contact info, please mention the IDEO Challenge.
Thank you for your interest!
Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Photo of Nathalie Garavito

This idea is brilliant! How would you apply it to developing countries which have limitations related to space. Wish you the best with this project.

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Hi Nathalie,
Thank you for your positive support and great question! There are many locations with limited space, my recent trip to NYC, I noticed the issue and designed testing dispensers on the outside of buildings for quick walk by refills. There are many NYC restaurants with glass entrances, Refill Depot could do a similar design! I love the challenge! Colleen

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen 

As Refinement Phase quickly comes to a close in 12 hours, I want to remind you that the following must be submitted by tonight, August 31st at 11:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

1. Submit the Refinement Questions Form online that was sent again via email yesterday evening! This is mandatory for Top Ideas consideration, so this should be your first priority in the final stretch.

2. A secondary priority, which is optional, is to update your Refinement Phase post with the new information, photos, and documentation of your progress throughout this Phase!

Looking forward to reviewing and celebrating the amazing work you've achieved this Refinement Phase!

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Colleen!

There are 7 days left in the refinement phase.

If there is key information in the comments on your idea submission, I recommend that you move them to the main body of your idea submission before the cut-off time.

I just want to remind you that the deadline to complete the Refinement Questions via the online submission form is August 31 at 11:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Thank you Kate,   greatly appreciate the information!   I will move key comments to this refinement phase.

Photo of Ana Martínez

me encanta! es una buena manera de seguir cuidando un solo objeto con valor agregado! re-usar. saber que ese objeto puede durar años!

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Gracias Ana, apreciamos mucho su apoyo positivo! Este es un nuevo poder de compra del consumidor, su tamaño deseado y estilo de contenedores: plástico, vidrio o inoxidable, no pagar de nuevo y mantenerlos para toda la vida! Ahorra dinero y medio ambiente! No puedo esperar para mostrar a todo el mundo!  Colleen   

Thank you Ana, greatly appreciate your positive support! This is a new consumer purchase power, your desired size and style container: plastic, glass or stainless, don't pay again and keep them for life! Saves money and environment! I can't wait to show everyone! Colleen

Photo of Angel Landeros

I can tell you that this idea comes up time and again in internal innovation forums in most large CPG companies, and there have been some trials done in different parts of the world. I do believe that at some point this will become part of the solution to reduce waste. There are already some companies that provide this type of equipment, how are your patents different from what they provide to avoid litigation?

On the user side, there some things you might do to track and make your systems more attractive to both sides of the supply chain.

A. If bottles have a machine readable code, you could have users scan the bottle before refilling. This will provide a lot of useful data:
1. How many cycles the bottle has been used. You can provide discounts or coupons for other products based on increased used cycles.
2. Frequency. You could provide the store with data on customer consumption frequency, preference, behaviors. The customer could get an alert to check their inventory based on learned frequency
3. Quality Control. If the user scans a bottle he normally uses for shampoo to fill laundry detergent, they could get an alert to make sure they're not messing up.
4. Status. With the data obtained, you could create a leader board for people who recycle the most or something like that. They could get exclusive offers or chance to try out something new ahead of time

These stations can become an attractive point of sale for both sides if they provide additional savings or opportunities:
1. Provide discounts for slow moving inventory
2. Provide offers for new products the store or product vendor wants users to try out
3. The user could get specific discounts based on their profile and preferences

There is a lot of work that needs to happen to make it so: affordable systems, how to distribute bulk, loss of variety, equipment maintenance, cybersecurity, hackproofing, etc. But I'm sure you will figure those out.

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Wow Angel, excellent feedback and suggestions, all noted!   Thank you for your time and effort to submit your thoughts, hugely appreciated!
The Patent Design:
The current dispensing systems most require energy at frontend and backend, our objective was to create more sustainable design, remove the pumps reduces energy creates least operating cost and quietest system. We can not fill the world with high energy dispensers, especially if objective is to transform distribution!   The additional features have continual feed with upscale technology/automation to monitor products so minimize product never runs out.  The patent is approved in USA and Australia, Intl filing.  The other key features are tablet POS and innovative nozzle.    Lastly, refilling 17 containers must be convenient and quick, 24/7 self-serve multi car drive-in model store is much faster than going into current retail store and less straining than hauling containers into a store!   Enabling refill 17 containers with 16 different products in less than 15 minutes.

As a IT/Automation Designer, there is limitless upscale on technology, products and distribution.   
The revenue stream to sell systems, will bring new pricing with demand volume, as for products, currently there are many replicated products to a over saturated selection.
We also promoting wholesale volume for brand name eco/organic products in our retail location which will be replicated to franchise locations.
I am a regular customer to a 24/7 self-serve water refilling station (Pure Flow H2O, they are partners), I have used the same containers for 12 years!   This efficient system was the working model we have enhanced Refill Depot to improve on this concept for all products!
 I want everyone to share the happy feeling of saving the environment and money, Refill Depot is definitely is a feel good business!   Thank you again for your knowledgeable feedback, we will start basic but will move to automation, trying to create WOW factors!  Colleen

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Colleen and team!

Welcome to refinement!

I noticed your idea submission is in draft. You can update your idea submission when it is published. Then people can comment and offer feedback on your idea submission.

Would you elaborate more on how this solution would address or replace small-format plastic packaging?

Do you have any estimates of price point?

How would you build customer loyalty with this solution?

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me by tagging me here (@ followed by my name) or send me an email -

I just want to remind you that the deadline to complete the Refinement Questions via the online submission form is August 31 at 11:30 p.m. Pacific Time.

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Many thanks @krushton,  greatly appreciate the suggest to publish and excellent questions!

Question #1:  elaborate on solution addressing or replacing small-format plastic packaging?

Refill Depot enables reduce reuse efficiency, consumers may refill a 500ml container, pay only for product, small packaging is extremely costly: price and eco!   Consumers may refill smaller reuse containers which will be a major cost saving!    The high profit margin is hidden in packaging.   I purchased small travel containers which I refill with my regular personal hygiene products, these sustainable practises will be educated with Refill Depot's onsite TV videos.  

Question #2:   Estimates of price point?
Removing packaging will reduce costs by 20%, all products would appear to be at sale price.   As Refill Depot purchases in higher product volumes, these price points will change!

Question #3:   Customer Loyalty?
Refill Depot has loyalty program for both Commercial and Retail customer, every 11th refill is free, calculated by previous 10 refills, 10 - 20 litre pails will receive 1 free 20 litre refill!   This will require customer profiles which enables emails to thank customers for their reduce reuse actions also indicating cost savings and carbon footprint reduction.  
Many thanks,  Colleen


Photo of Jorge Cuervo Manrique

Great idea!
Few points to consider:
-if I have to drive there to refill my containers, I may prefer it to be in a place where I can do some other things: gas station, supermarket, etc
-will it refill certain quantity or I can specify what I want? The later would be preferred by user.
-if it's my first time there, how can I get the recipient? It may interest the brand's to provide their own which looks equal to the standard. Brands use package as advertising (I see that shampoo at your home and I get it. Additionally some people may not want to look cheap by using an unbranded package.

Nevertheless, I see good potential!

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Big thanks Jorge, great questions, greatly appreciate the challenges!
Question #1:
I agree it would be enticing with other features however the WOW factor will be new ability to  refill 15 products at one time, it's a feel great business: 1) new purchase power with your desired style and size container 2) savings money, stop paying for packaging 3) reducing waste for sustainable future!   We will email each customer that signs up,  how much they saved:  costs and carbon footprint!   Our Showcase will  provide up 15 different products: 2-water, 10-cleaning products and 5 personal hygiene.   
Our main objective is selling systems and buildings to limitless industries, Big Box Retailers is one, as for dealing with products that will be their call.    
In research, we drove around at Christmas time, you can NOT get into the malls, I realized Refill Depot requires it's own location!   The mall location would not assist with our convenience but we looked for high traffic prime retail location with other 24/7 businesses in close vicinity.   
Question #2:  The new purchase power enables your desired volume we will provide 500 ml to 20 litres, we will have to innovate for but the new reuse cycle is developed for individuals.   Good example is hand soap, I refill 6 sink stationed hand soap dispensers but I want to refill a 6 - 10 litre transport container.   The same example is dish soap, I have small container at the sink but I have 6 litre container under my sink, once the 6 litre is empty, I will put in my car then refill at my convenience. 
Question #3: 
The receipt will be emailed with costs and carbon footprint savings plus if requested the ingredients and health information can be also emailed!  
Refill Depot labels will provide Brand name for containers.

I hope this answers all your great questions, there is much to this major project however I do see technology will enhance the experience with automation!
 Thank you again for your time and positive support!   Colleen


Definitely you will be able to indicate the quantity you want

Photo of Jess Mak

Hi Colleen,

I admire your extraordinary vision and ambition with your REFILL DEPOT project and I wholly agree that there needs to be a better solution to the existing model of distributing and buying plastic bottled products off the shelf. I have a couple of questions:

1. I can see how this concept would work for items that cost-savvy consumers or businesses buy in bulk e.g. bleach/ cleaning products, however as a few people have mentioned already in your comments, I can see this being a challenge if you consider the hundreds of brands and their tens of products, particularly with smaller items e.g. types of shampoo/soap. Not to mention the fast turn around/ introduction of new products which might be difficult to manage, and the removal of the brands' ability and desire to express creativity in their product through the limitless possibility in packaging design. I was wondering how you would pitch your concept to retailers/ brands, given the many challenges that you would face in-store.

2. Your concept would require a complete transformation in the distribution model. (I agree that this must happen!) How would this be done in an environmentally friendly way? I think it could be interesting to consider innovative products that eliminate unnecessary water in your idea e.g. products such as SQUASH'D juice concentrate or washing tablets as opposed to liquid, which might create further opportunities for cost and planet-saving solutions.

I think that it is interesting to challenge and play with how we can propose products/ services to companies and consumers that are environmentally friendly, whilst upholding the freedom and innovation that is involved in packaging design and branding. It's a worthy cause and a big challenge. Well done so far, and keep going!


Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Hi Jesse,
Thank you for the great questions, positive support and time to review Refill Depot.

Question #1:
My pitch to our supplier, Earth Friendly Products in California was to remove containers which is substituted with a 1250 litre/322 gallon transport tote will reduce their operating cost by 20%.    Earth Friendly Products indicated they like 1250 litres/322 gallon totes because they don't have to purchase 322 containers, caps and labels, fill, package, store or ship.    A 1250 litre transport tote is 4'x4'x5' tall but 322 packaged containers is approximately 20'x6' wide of boxes, greatly reducing size and weight.   Our objective is to create one showcase, to demonstrate system functionality, consumer acceptance and statistics.   We will provide ECOS products in wholesale volume at retail level creates 2 revenue streams:  commercial and retail customers.   The Commercial customers create a steady revenue stream, such as auto dealers, daycares, private schools, hotels and much more while retail is unsteady revenue stream.   We create loyalty using promotion of every 11th refill is free.   Our main objective is transform distribution, selling dispensing system to Big Box Retail, like Home Depot Canada and Walmart, will bring them to their desired operation of 24/7 self-serve.   The retailers will deal with their suppliers how many products they wish to provide for their customers.

Question #2:
Refill Depot is lean disruption to current distribution to remove packaging; root solution essential to reduce global waste!   Lean disruption is creating efficiency, moving filling containers from suppliers to consumers, eliminates ongoing packaging and operational costs.
We begin operating with non-edible liquid but will continually innovate our dispensing system for edible liquid, powder, granular and small items such as laundry soap tabs, tea bags, carpenter nails.  We have limitless innovation upscale on technology, products and distribution.
I agree this is a major project but the results will solve many major global problems, creating smart sustainable savings: economically and environmentally.
Many thanks for the positive support and feedback, it is greatly appreciated!


Photo of Michelle

Hi Colleen,

Thank you for looking into my idea. However what you just looked into was in the Research Phase. You can take look at my contribution that was in the Ideas Phase, where there are more details, or better yet, please watch my video at:

I hope this inspires you to improve on this and possibly expand into the foods/drinks category!

Good luck!


Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Hi Michelle,  thank you for your update and link, I watched the video, excellent animation of proposed venture! 
The drop off container concept was reviewed but there are still costs, interaction with the containers, retail's objective is the complete 24/7 self-serve environment.
The Refill Depot concept enables consumer with new purchase power with their desired style: plastic, glass or stainless and size container: 1/4 gallon to 5 gallons.   Refill Depot will be moving to edible products with refrigeration and other requirements.  
 Many thanks,


Photo of Chris Spengler

Hello Colleen, in general you have a great idea and concept; however, I'd like to offer some constructive criticism. First your diorama is a bit amateurish. Please find someone to create a 3-D video model. If you're low on funds, search out an architectural college and see if you can get some students to do it for you as an assignment. Second, you're narrative feels off-the-cuff. Either write and practice the narrative so it comes out smooth and naturally or find someone with more polished public speaking skills to narrate your video for you. RE: the concept, in order to change buying habits, you'll need to offer significant cost savings, my guess is 25-50%. Keep in mind that you're offering a very limited choice in anyone product category and people like their choices. The product quality will need to be very high. One option would be to go with current store brands that people are familiar with. I would suggest trying to talk to Costco about setting these up for their Kirkland brand products in their stores. If you could sell them on the idea, you don't have to work up your distribution network from the start. Finally, you keep mentioning "no electricity" but if you plan on using phone apps, accept credit cards, and have machines that accept "codes" you'll need electricity, plus lighting and security for the stations. While you certainly could use solar and battery backup for the electricity, but to say no electricity seems unrealistic. Hope this helps.

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Hi Chris, thank you for the constructive criticism, greatly appreciate your time and feedback, all valid points.   The diorama was crafted by myself due to time constraints, was fun constructing and hopefully provides a visual concept, I will look into a professional 3D diorama using your suggestions.   As a tech person writing is not my strong point, just this week, I have a professional assistant to review style and content, you should see major improvements.  I will clarify and update application, "no electricity / pumps" patent for backend operation of high volume vat system,  not for frontend operation such as Point of Sale debit/credit, security, lights and more however prime electricity will be powered by solar with backup generator or utility power.   All Big Box Retail are target markets, Walmart seeks technology to remove packaging will increase their profits, we exceed their expectations with 12 key features:  theft/shrinkage - global retail reports $128B loss annually, highest LCA score - brings carbon tax credits/exemptions, new markets - hotels buying cleaning products from Walmart and much more!   Thank you again, if it's clear to you then I am improving!    Warm regards, Colleen 

Photo of Michael Greene

Hi Colleen
There is a lot of interesting information here and Chris has challenged some of where you are. I will come at it from the other side. Big Box retail makes money in a number of different ways and the take-away at the shelf level is just one part of the equation. If you are to offer a price-item strategy to them how are you going to compensate them for the loss of inside monies they are getting from the consumer package giants. In this case you may well be offering refill Head and Shoulders shampoo, but will you offer the entire range of P&G products, plus Unilever and L'Oreal? Add to the mix the private label and you surely can see the issue. If you follow the 80/20 rule, then you are hitting retailers in their volume rebates and inside monies.

I truly believe that you have a great design from what you have described. The issue I have with the business model is it reminds me of the Vendo-mats of the 60s. Walls of vending machines which rarely had exactly what I wanted.

Your numbers on global scale for shrink cause me to think that your plan is too big. What are the shrink numbers in a regional market like the US? Do your shrink numbers reflect only CPG or does that include all things tracked in a statistical shopping basket as StatsCan does? I know the next writer (Linzi) applauds the BIG; I do too. The issue is from a business stand point, can I solve the problems and make money? Who holds the patent on your technology? Is the patent final of pending?

I think that there is great opportunity here.


Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Hi Michael, Thank you for the Big Box Retail profit insight, I greatly appreciate your time to comment and your positive feedback!  

I own the patents, they are approved in US and Australia, Intl filing with more to come. 
The sustainable design for high volume dispensing: no pumps (electricity) therefore least operating costs and quietest system.   

The global retail theft/shrinkage are 2014 - 2015 - $123.4 Billion theft/shrinkage
You tube video commissioned by CheckPoint:
The National Retail Federation USA 2015 is $45.2B shrinkage
Addressing products, Refill Depot's main objective is transform distribution, selling systems and buildings to Big Box Retail (Walmart, Home Depot, Walgreens, etc.).  Walmart will decide which products they will provide per dispenser.  The 24/7 self-serve environment has been the retail objective for 20 years, transforming distribution enables this objective plus removing packaging reduces operating costs such as: on going labor stocking shelves, storage and shipping costs are reduced by 20%, moving wholesale volume to retail level creates: new markets such as hotels buying from Walmart and much more.   There is a supply chain of cost savings for: suppliers, consumers, limitless industries and cities: reducing Recycle programs, moves to smart cities scenario reducing operating costs, carbon footprint and waste.   Walmart seeks the technology to remove packaging will increase profits, Refill Depot has additional cost savings:  new markets, theft/shrinkage prevention and carbon tax credits or exemption.   Every dispenser sold is automatically enabled for carbon tax credits/exemptions.   This is lean architecture, addressing social (new reduce reuse habits), economics (cost savings) and environmental issues (reducing waste and carbon footprint).  
The limitless upscale with technology, products and distribution will create efficiency, new opportunities and education to innovate big vision for more sustainable future for next generations.    Many thanks, Colleen

Photo of Michael Greene

Hi Colleen
I started in retail when I was 14. My first experience with shrink was a fellow employee doing a sweetheart deal with a friend. After years of running, building, designing stores, I have a reasonable understanding of where the shrink comes from. The numbers that Checkpoint puts up are TotalTotal market numbers. Jewelry, televisions, eye liner and clothing. The consumer package goods shrink number will be a percentage inline as far as units but way down on the dollars. One diamond ring is worth 300 bottles of shampoo. Here are some other facts:

"Employee theft accounted for 43.7 percent of all shrinkage in 2010, according to the National Retail Security Survey. Shoplifting made up nearly one-third, or 32.6 percent of shrinkage during the same year. Accounting errors and vendor fraud made up 18.3 percent of the remainder."
62% of the shrink factor is internal or systemic issues. Further to that:

" For the second consecutive year, loss prevention executives report that retail shrink levels remain at historically low levels. According to the 2016 National Retail Security Survey, conducted by the University of Florida in partnership with the National Retail Federation, while losses from shrink increased from $44 billion in 2014 to $45.2 billion last year, inventory shrink as a percentage of retail sales actually remained the same as the year before. At 1.38 percent, they are the two lowest shrink percentages recorded in the survey’s 25-year history." (

Now let me move on to volume product and what will be in the units. Walmart is a prime example of the 80/20 rule. They have about 160 hair care products. They are for the most part controlled by three major manufacturers. Inside one brand you can have six to eight different offerings between shampoo and conditioner. The next issue is that all of those fit in 16 base linear feet, 6 feet high. Space efficiency is a must and as a retailer I need to turn dollars per cubic inch, not square. Every inch of my store better be doing something to make me sales and profit. Looking at the specific need to reduce plastic in the system, a trip to the Walmart refrigerated counter and you have gable top orange juice with those lovely little plastic lids. This product needs refrigeration. It also has a variety of flavours, with pulp, no pulp, added something, less of something. Pure versus drink. Again all fitting inside 12 feet, maybe 16 base linear feet. I need to turn that once a week and the average Walmart is more than likely putting about 1000 plastic caps a week into the waste stream, 52 weeks of the year. Salad dressings again, a highly efficient space product with a large variety of flavours. Turns are slower and seasonal.

"Every dispenser sold is automatically enabled for carbon tax credits/exemptions. This is lean architecture, addressing social (new reduce reuse habits), economics (cost savings) and environmental issues (reducing waste and carbon footprint). "

The carbon tax is great. My concern (because I have been in the front before) is are you too far out in front of the retail market understanding carbon credits?

Lean architecture I do not even understand that, do you mean small foot print, because again as a retailer, to move the majority of my top sellers into this format I will need to expand the footprint of my store.

Three R habits. Totally, but the learning curve to do it, another thing. I am in cottage country right now, they have the water refill station. The grocery store is selling two pallets a day of bottled water. The refill station is used occasionally.

The economics impact for a retail will hit them with a loss of about 18% off the bottom line while driving up their rental cost as they take on more space. They will have less staff, which will raise unemployment. That is the knock on effect.

Now I have said all those things, it is still a great idea. Clean neat and hopefully efficient. For a limited line retailer a great opportunity. For high volume product, great. I can see exactly where and who this will fit with, and there are enormous possibilities.

I did a search on your patent and was unable to find it. I am curious how you will control the product/container relationship. I have a bottle of Suave shampoo and refill it with Redkin at 10 times the value. How will you ensure that shrinkage does not occur? Perhaps that is for another discussion.

The opportunity is here. I just need to understand the impact on the mass market as outlined in the challenge. The small plastic caps and sachets. The sachets, may work depending on the fill and seal function. The caps, that is a volume issue.
Again, great idea and just seeing it from my experience set.

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Thank you Michael for your in depth expertise brings excellent points and concerns, greatly appreciate your time, stimulating questions and positive support!   Your retail expertise is essential to our team, love your step up and interest!

I will do my best to explain how the retailers responded, research for this new disruption to bring IoT retail future.
Refill Depot has many LOIs, one LOI from Home Depot Canada - 182 locations, like Walmart, they understood the new opportunities, technology to remove packaging with 24/7 self-serve operation savings, and other key features: carbon tax exempt, new markets and theft/shrinkage will increase profits!
The theft/shrinkage is all possible with small volume packaging, dispensing does not allow this unless they have a forklift!   Definitely, shrinkage (internal) is slightly possible but dispensing eliminates shoplifting (external)!
In my research, disruption will change the current rules to new profit/marketing rules however all for the better!  
Moving products out of store to building (asset) on parking lot that runs the 24/7 self-serve operation will increases profits and business value!  The new space in store will create new opportunity for new products or steady revenue stream: rental space.   The suppliers will assess products they will continue to produce, will eliminate excessive low revenue products.   Moving refrigerated items to dispensing is all possible, there are no major issues where innovation will hit road blocks, there is limitless upscale on technology to automate.
The Winnipeg Water Refilling Stations are all successful and expanding to increase multiple locations, adding additional products like ice.
The approved patents are as follows, Intl filing: 
1) US Patent 14/003,672 9481562 Sustainable bulk liquid dispensing device 
2) AU 2012234695 (B2) Sustainable bulk liquid dispensing device
Please keep in mind, retail is one industry, there is limitless markets however retail has the highest environmental impact, enabling consumers to efficiency of saving money and environment will entice money/environmentally conscious consumers.  

The Lean Architect (new architecture, transform process design to optimize efficiency) assessing current process efficiency levels, in this case, Recycle process on global scale at 5-15% efficiency level, failure score!   This is insanity to continue with same process to achieve same results, waste!   The current recycle process is actually re-process which is extremely high in carbon footprint, tons of money, time, gas and electricity to make it into something new.   The Recycle intent was buy a 2 litre Coke bottle, once empty cut the top off and now it's a flower vase (no electricity or gas).

The Refill Depot moving filling containers from supplier (backend)  to consumers (frontend) creates a supply chain of money savings from supplier to cities, new consumer purchase power and new opportunities for industries.   Consumers/Taxpayers are paying in store for packaging, pay taxes for Recycle Program and pay taxes again to take to landfill, packaging is costing a fortune!

I am an excellent example as a regular water refilling customer, I use the same containers for 12 years, love the efficiency of just paying for product with no waste, it's a great feeling!  

Many thanks again, Colleen

Photo of Juli Schulz

Colleen - Even UK consumers are asking for a new solution such as Refill Depot!
See article "Nine out of 10 people call for 'plastic-free isle' in supermarkets, Finds Survey"
"The survey – of 2,000 British adults by Populus – was commissioned by campaign group A Plastic Planet, which said it was clear that the public wanted an alternative to “goods laden with plastic packaging”.

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Hi Juli,
Thank you for bringing this to my attention, exceptional marketing research expertise, it's an excellent article!   The UK / Europe are strong environmentalists, a definite market for our Refill Depot system as daily pickup shoppers, they will love the speed of our system!  Thanks again, Colleen

Photo of Rachel Sarnoff

Amazing vision! This is especially needed in countries inundated by single-use sachet packs. Love this!

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Hi Rachel, Huge thank you for your input with our big vision, there have been numerous countries inquiring.   Refill Depot will create a priority list, if they are truly interested, may I suggest we start collecting Letters Of Interest from countries.   Warm regards, Colleen

Photo of Lara Hoad

This is genius and something we need in every town and the city around the world. The human population needs to rethink plastic pollution from the source and this is one step in the right direction.

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Hi Lara, Thank you for matching up on our big vision with transforming distribution, the potential is limitless industries.  This is lean architecture, redesign to streamlining processes.   I greatly appreciate your feedback!   Colleen

Photo of Paul Dube

Great job Colleen & crew. It's been a long, hard road but you are getting there!

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Thanks Paul, it is a team effort to bring Big Vision to market, love your encouragement, greatly appreciated!   Colleen

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Many thanks Rafiq!   I am anxious to open the showcase!

Photo of Rafiq Punjani

Great work Colleen!!

Photo of Darrell Willim

Refill Depot is the future, we and our planet depend on it!! Reduce pollution is the only way to save our planet for future generations.

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Thank you Darrell, glad to see we share the save passion for sustainability for next generations!   Greatly appreciate your time to support Refill Depot, Colleen

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Hi Tiffany, many thanks for your positive feedback, you are the perfect Refill Depot market!   If you have friends with the same environmental consciousness, please spread the word, it would be greatly appreciated!   I hope to meet all the Refill Depot supporters some day soon,  Colleen

Photo of Tiffany

I love the idea of Refill Depot! This needs to be our future!! I'm big on reusing and buying in bulk. I am passionate about plastic pollution and you had me at saving 50 million tons of waste going into landfills and the ocean! Best of luck and if I can help get the word out let me know. -Green With Tiffany

Photo of Nick Karno

Great idea. There's a Bottled Water refilling station right near the Trader Joe's I shop at, and if people are willing to carry their empties to the station, refill their water, and take them home - why wouldn't they do the same for all the other projects they purchase? It really has major potential. I can see how online purchases can work the same way - kind of like the way we used to have milkmen come and deliver milk door to door, and switch out the empties with new bottles of milk. Kudos to you for doing this (I even like the funky diorama you built), and I really hope you succeed!

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Thank you Nick, greatly appreciate your feedback!   My first visit to Pure Flow H2O was a WOW, what a great business, I want one and why do we stop at water?    I have been refilling the same six 5 gallon water bottles for 12 years, this concept is working and successfully accepted by consumers.    Warm regards, Colleen

Photo of Linzi

This is an incredible idea - love how you're thinking BIG and looking at consumer behaviour as well as the retailers POV.

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Thank you Linzi, the vision is BIG, Refill Depot addresses social (enable new reduce reuse habits), economics (reducing costs for supply chain, consumers, limitless industries and cities/recycle program) and lastly, environmental (root solution essential to reducing global waste).   Many thanks, Colleen

Photo of Elizabeth Zampolli

This is the Future! The most impactful solution to plastic packaging waste. You are starting a revolution! The best of luck!

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Thank you Elizabeth for your kind wishes!  You are correct, it is the highest environmental savings impact when you enable reduce reuse to the retail market,   Many thanks, Colleen

Photo of olanrewaju Giwa

I feel cool with this idea, it has potentials.

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Olanrewaju, it's cool that you think Refill Depot is cool!   I can say, "it's awesome" that you see the potential!  Many thanks, Colleen

Photo of Anna Pearson

Such a good idea! It's so frustrating to go to the store and the only way to buy products like soap and shampoo is to buy them in plastic. I'd love to be able to refill items like that without creating more waste!

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Thank you Anna, as a master shopper, I was angry at how distribution dictates what I can buy and because the volume they provide, I had to purchase 2 to get my desire volume!   More money wasted!   I can't wait to create a new purchase power for consumers!  Many thanks, Colleen

Photo of Marcus Eriksen

This is EXACTLY what the world needs. When we look inland for sources of plastic pollution we always arrive at plastic packaging used to deliver small quantities of goods. The design revolution we need begins with ideas like the Refill Depot.

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Thank you Marcus, greatly appreciate your positive feedback!  Colleen

Photo of Juli Schulz

Colleen - This is such an amazing idea to tackle our problem with plastic packaging waste. I spend a ton of time in the ocean and notice that it is not just the small plastics in the ocean but large plastic packaging as well - bleach bottles, dish soap bottles, shampoo & conditioner - all contributing to our plastic pollution waste worldwide. This idea really tackles our plastic problem not only on the consumer side, but with retailers and manufactures too! Good luck Colleen!!

Photo of Nina Bergmann

This is a great concept ! We are promoting this in Indonesia too. There we call it a Refill Toko - please see
I hope your idea can spread !!! Especially in countries like Indonesia with lots of single use 1-portion packaging it would make such a difference ! Good luck and kind regards, Nina

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Thank you Nina for your positive support and warm wishes, I watched your video link, it's a move in small business, many popping up.    RD is high volume dispensing with tech design for locations like New York City where space is limited.   The plan is to transform distribution, we will be coming to Indonesia and technology enables versatility design in mind for community needs.   All the best, Colleen

Photo of Nina Bergmann

Dear Colleen, Please see Indonesian Waste Platform - welcome to join and share news there.
This is link to website :
This is link to register your organisation on the stakeholder page:
And this is the link to our discussion forum:
In case you need contacts in Indonesia please let me know. Kind regards, Nina

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Colleen!

It is great to see you in the challenge. Would you tell more about the prototyping and piloting you have done i.e. size, products dispensed etc.?

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

The prototype testing with no electricity and pumps complete, piloting for prime retail location is at funding stage.  Winnipeg is retail experienced with water refilling, proven the successful working business model.   Our current stage is funding for a pilot prime retail location for drive-in refilling station for many products!   We start with current debit/credit, gift card and cash Point of Sale purchasing, PureFlow H2O Partners expertise in dispensing and retail.   Tech and product development will be conducted behind the scene, slowly introducing it to retail.  We offer high volume product dispensing 1-20 liter volume with any style container: glass or plastic.

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Colleen,

Excited to see you joining this challenge. We noticed your post is currently unpublished. Was this your intention? We'd love to have it be included in the challenge. You can publish it by hitting the "Publish" button at the top of your post. You can also update your post by clicking on the "Edit Contribution" on top.

We're looking forward to seeing your contribution in this challenge.

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Good day, 
Yes, my intentions was to save the draft.  My issue is we have begun rebranding from Refill Depot to The Refillery.   I am not certain everything will be complete in time for deadline so I will continue with Refill Depot.   Thank you for your attention to this application!

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Colleen,

Just mentioning the rebranding is fine.

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Thank you for an essential challenge, greatly appreciate the encouragement! I will complete the application.  
Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen
CEO and Founder, The Refillery - smart sustainable savings: economically and environmentally