What is a Refillery + Why Do We Need More of Them?

What is a Refillery + Why Do We Need More of Them?

Recently, I visited this amazing refillery in New Jersey called “Dry Goods Refillery.” I reached out to them prior to my visit to ask if they could arrange a special order for me to pick up. I needed supplies for a workshop I was running, and I wanted to get them as plastic-free as possible. Thankfully, they were happy to oblige. When I arrived to pickup my goods, everything was in glass jars, or a paper bag. They even put it in a cardboard box for me to easily carry it back to the car. I swear, if I lived closer, I’d be visiting this place all the time. I wasn’t just impressed with my order, but the range of items they had in stock. It’s a shame we don’t have more stores like this around. Want to know what is a refillery and why we need more? Keep reading!

What is a Refillery & Why Do We Need More of Them?

What is a Refillery + Why Do We Need More of Them?

What is a refillery?

A refillery is a retail store where you can refill a host of household items, such as cleaning supplies and dry goods, using the same containers repeatedly. This helps drastically reduce packaging waste, specifically single-use plastic. Refilleries are ideal examples of a circular economy in action.

To participate at a refillery, you can bring your own container, or purchase a container from them. Once you have a container, you can bring it back to the store to reuse repeatedly on any product you’d like to refill.

What do refilleries sell?

Here are some items you might be able to refill at a refillery:

  • Laundry detergent
  • Dish soap
  • Hand soap
  • Dishwasher detergent
  • Body wash
  • Face wash
  • Body lotion
  • Toothpaste tablets
  • Shampoo + conditioner
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Popcorn
  • Dry beans + lentils
  • Herbs + spices
  • Tea + coffee
  • Candy + sweets
  • Cooking oils
  • Vinegars

Along with offering refills for products (both edible and non-edibles), refill stores often offer sustainable products. These products help make low-waste, plastic-free living much easier. Examples include beeswax wrap, glassware storage containers, bamboo toothbrushes, wool dryer balls, etc.

Depending on the kind of refillery it is, there may even be a plastic-free fresh and frozen food section. Dry Goods Refillery sold plastic-free cheese, milk, eggs, and fresh produce. They even had frozen foods in glass jars and plastic-free tofu!

Why are refilleries important?

We currently live in a linear economy: This means items are designed for the landfill. That makes it extra hard to avoid waste (ex: whenever you order takeout, it’s always delivered in plastic containers). While you can recycle some of these items, the recycling system we have in place is pretty much broken. Plastic only has a 5-6% recycling rate, so we need to rely less on recycling.

The solution? A circular economy. Think circle of life from Lion King – everything comes full circle. Instead of designing products for landfill, products would be designed with end of life in mind. This can mean a number of things – products that can actually be recycled; products made from compostable materials; products without packaging.

It can also mean we rely more on refill systems, as this reduces waste the most. A refillery is a perfect example of this! An empty olive oil glass can be infinitely refilled at a refillery. Instead of recycling it (which takes a lot of energy, despite glass being infinitely recyclable), it’s more sustainable to just keep it in use.

Refillery stores help us come closer to creating a zero waste society. By having more open up, we’d make zero waste living a lot more accessible. Because I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of ONLY having sustainable online shops to choose from. I want a place near me I can go to!

How does a Refillery work?

Here’s how a refillery works: You bring a container (any – even Tupperware works), or purchase a container from the store. You have the container tared if it needs to be (ask the person at the register to help with this), so you don’t get charged for the weight of the jar.

Then, you start shopping! Fill up your container with whatever you like around the store. Usually, items in bulk will cost per pound. The price will vary per item.

Then, when you’ve collected all your goods, you bring them to the front register to be rung up. You take the containers back home and when they empty, you know it’s time to repeat the process and hit up the refillery again!

Some people like to have jars or containers waiting at home to transfer their new products into. This frees up the container you used at the Refillery to be used again sooner. Whatever way you choose to do it is fine!

Where can I find a refillery near me?

Glad you asked! Litterless has a great resource on where to find bulk grocery stores in every US State!

On Staten Island NY, where I live, I tend to go to Tastebuds which has an aisle dedicated to bulk dry goods. Still, it would be lovely to have an actual refillery on the Island too! I’ve toyed with the idea of opening my own in the past…

You can also use this app from zero waste home to search for refilleries and bulk food stores near you.

When all else fails, a quick google search of “refilleries near me” or “(your state) refillery” should yield some results.

Lastly, if you don’t have any refilleries or bulk stores near you…consider opening one yourself! Being a pioneer is scary, but someone has to do it. Perhaps it could be you?

What is a Refillery + Why Do We Need More of Them?

So, do you have any refilleries near you? I’d love to learn about them! Drop them in comments below.

For more information, be sure to check out my post about bulk bin shopping.

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By Ariana Storniolo (Palmieri)

Ariana Storniolo is the founder of Greenify-Me, a blog dedicated to zero waste and sustainability. Her work has also been featured on Going Zero Waste, Green Matters, Mother Earth Living and several other online publications.


  1. I would love to open up a refillary store in my town but they’re just about to open a Sprouts store (similar to Whole Foods) and we have grocery outlets and winco which has bulk options so in terms of competition I get worried that it might not do well. I’m also in a city with a lot of crime and poverty so sometimes I don’t think people could afford to buy from a refillary in this town it’s a privilege. I hope I’m able to find the resources though and perhaps open one in the near future even with competition.

    1. I really hope you’re able to open your own shop!! Some healthy competition can be good. And think of it this way – which would most people prefer to support? A huge chain, or a small business that probably has higher quality stuff?

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