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Redesigning the grocery store

What if we can create a culture not by disposing of but of refilling?

Photo of Michelle

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I was inspired by the story of The Fillery in Brooklyn, NY. Not only does it has a goal of reducing the use of single-use plastic packaging, it also aims to reduce food waste.

Grocery stores or supermarkets need to be redesigned so that consumers can be able to close the loop in the plastics industry. It will be designed in a way that makes consumers stick to a refilling routine.

In the first image (green background) is a diagram detailing the efficiency of the system:

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.

The next image is a sophisticated filling station. It could be a machine that emulates a filling component from a factory. The design of it can vary on what kind of product is filled.

In the third image, we need to emphasize interaction at the counter so that the customer can state how much he needs to the grocery clerk (or in the case of meats, a butcher). Why look at countless packaging for the amount you want when you can say how much you need? Grocery stores and supermarkets will need to provide reusable containers for such things as well.

In the fourth image, a container exchange station can work well as a customer service station. The value of the containers must be high enough as an incentive to sell back and not dispose of them.

In the fifth image, companies are inherently responsible for getting their products to market. Distribution can be designed in a way that ultimately uses the method of refilling and makes it a routine.

We currently have the technology to make this happen. We could slowly integrate the system into existing grocery stores/supermarkets or create entirely new markets with the system in place. Or we could do both at the same time...

How does this research relate to our Use Cases?

The major takeaways of this system: 1. Refilling will reduce single-use packaging drastically. 2. Customers will save money because they will often be buying the filled product that does not include the container. 3. Companies will save money in the long run because there will be little need to create new packaging for every single product sold. 4. Many resources will be saved from generating additional packagings such as water, electricity, etc. Carbon emissions will be greatly reduced too!

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Many modern societies were once refillable societies. Ancient civilizations used pottery to refill at various shops and to take back to their places. There are only so few of such habits in remote places around the world. The milkman once refilled our bottles of milk at our doorsteps. Why can't we follow their examples?

Tell us about yourself

I'm a graphic designer. I have a passion for the environment and am concerned about the welfare of people and nature. Wherever I went hiking or kayaking in remote places, I don't go by a day without seeing bits of plastic packaging. When I read about The Fillery, that's when my inspiration comes in!


Join the conversation:

Photo of Colleen Brennan-Vandersteen

Please review @Refill Depot transforming distribution to remove packaging; we are selling high volume dispensing systems to Big Box Retail.   Walmart seeks technology to remove packaging will increase their profits, Refill Depot exceeds their expectations with 12 additional key features!  It has been under research and development for 4.5 years.   The highest environmental savings impact is enable consumers to reduce reuse efficiency creates smart sustainable savings: economically and environmentally!   Thank you for your idea, it is on the right track!   Thanks, Colleen

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