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Fill N' Save

This delivery model aims to incentivize consumers to refill while adding profits for companies, thus creating a refillable society.

Photo of Michelle
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1. Customer buys container provided by a company.

2. Customer takes the container to its brand's filling station.

3. Customer buys filled product, not including the container.

4. Customer uses product at home. Customer can return to the store with the empty container for refilling (return to step 2).

5. Customer sells back the container if he don't want the brand anymore or is switching.

Idea Title

Fill N' Save

Where are you / your team located?

Milpitas, CA, USA

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

The key is the prevention of waste. If we could make a container (or other small format plastic items) that is built for reusing, it would not make sense to dispose of it in the first place. If it becomes a streamlined system of incentives, society can adjust to the refilling routine and in that way, it will do less disposing.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

Can be applied to use cases 2 and 3. As mentioned in the video provided, the containers will not have separate components, including any caps or tear-offs.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

Perhaps some local groceries would love to volunteer to test out the system. An obstacle would include the customer's changing thoughts on which brand they should buy (ie what if they got one they want, but then they see another one they think is better? Then they had to return the original one). Customer service stations can be placed strategically for taking back the original. There's also compliance of the companies to the system. It would require gov't interference for it to happen.

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.

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

The ultimate goal is to create a refilling society, not a disposing society. Once as Top Idea, the idea can then be revised further to meet everyone's needs. Once accepted, testing or minimal prototyping can begin in volunteering local grocery stores. After successful testing and going through licensing, etc, can start implementing in a few new supermarkets (or can implement in some existing supermarkets).

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

I was inspired by the story of The Fillery, a local market in Brooklyn, NY. Its inspiring goal of reducing the use of single-use plastic packaging gave me a thought: what if that method is to be commercialized/widespread? I typically refill my 5-gallon water jug at my supermarket's water dispenser (Glacier). I only bought the jug once and I can refill the same jug over and over again. Around that time, I imagined different types of products having its own unique container and dispenser.

Tell us about your work experience

I am a freelance graphic designer and is also currently working part-time as an assistant graphic designer.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Brian Bauer

Hi Michelle,

Interesting idea, perhaps I am a little biased as I work with a Chilean company who has implemented a similar system for the past 4 years. Note, we sell by both vending machine and by exchanging reusable plastic containers. My company focuses on distributing our products, mostly food, but now liquid chemicals, in mom and pop shops in low income neighbourhoods in Chile.

I can see a similar idea/business model being viable in developed economies where the consumers have higher disposable incomes and perhaps higher appreciation for the environmental benefits of averting plastic waste.

You might find my idea interesting. My idea is called, "Sustainable Sachet Replacement for Bottom of the Pyramid Families that Stops the Flow of Plastic Waste While Increasing Disposable Incomes"

Best of luck with your proposal.

Cheers, Brian

Photo of Michelle

Hi Brian,

Thanks for the comment! I can see that a lot of people are having similar ideas for this model which I found to be exciting!

It would make much more sense to exchange containers instead of tossing them away, because why would we throw away something that actually can be used again? Containers do have value to them, after all.

Thank you for sharing your idea!

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