Bring your own containers
We drive our cars to the gas station to fill up our tanks. We sign up for home or office delivery of bottled water in huge jugs from companies like Menehune Water. Grocery stores like Foodland and specialty stores like Carousel Candyland in Kahala Mall let you bag your own snacks – charging you based on weight.
But almost everything else we buy is in a single-use container, from laundry detergent and shampoo to cereal, rice, and bottled water. Most of us throw away those plastic containers.
In my opinion, the biggest danger isn’t paper or plastic bags – it’s all of the plastic containers, jugs, bags, and bottles that we buy, just to throw them away when we get home. If we can’t recycle them, we need to be able to re-use them – or even eliminate them entirely.
In London, the supermarket Unpacked asks you to bring your own containers from home. You weigh your containers at the counter and then choose the product and amount you want to refill –oils and vinegars, beverages, herbs and spices, household cleaners and laundry detergents, even cheese and yogurt.
In France, the Cora supermarket in Dunkirkand eight other supermarkets have wine vending machines. Only in France? Maybe not.
In Miami,Florida, the Green Forest Initiative can deliver chemicals via liquid pumping delivery trucks to hospitals, hotels, and restaurants to minimize plastic container use. There are even Green Forest Refill Stations that lets you refill laundry detergent products in your own containers.
Despite the added hassle of cleaning your containers and then taking them with you to the store, and concerns about food safety, I think it would be a great idea if a Hawaii company started a pilot program with refill vending machines or staffed refill centers. The initial program could offer laundry detergent, shampoo, conditioner, and household cleaners. If people are interested, a second phase could add selected grocery items like cooking oil, flour, baking soda, cereal, potato chips, and juice – even pet food and litter. A third phase would consider perishable items like milk, beer, wine, and soda.
How would it work?
1. Clean your containers thoroughly. Inspect them for cracks and make sure the cover is tight.
2. Bring your containers from home (plastic, glass, Tupperware, even Ziplock bags). * Remember to bring a bag or box from home, or line your car trunk in case there is a leak.
3. Choose the product and the amount that you would like to buy. The refill station measures the amount of product you selected, by weight or volume.
If we could get a bring-your-own-container service started in Hawaii, we could minimize all the extra plastic bottles, cardboard boxes, and plastic bags that clutter our landfills. We could save money, if companies pass on their cost savings to us. We could reduce the number of wood pallets and shipping boxes needed to move all the individual boxes that we buy. We would have more control over the amount and cost of the food and products we buy.
Would you use a refill station if it could save you money and help our environment?