Plastic – It’s so last season
Joburg store puts the kibosh on stuff ruining our world
Never mind the growing gyre of waste consuming a patch of the north central Pacific Ocean — when it comes to trash, we’ve got our own problems.
Take a drive through SA’s small towns or a walk through one of our big cities and you’re confronted with foil packets, polystyrene and plastic billowing in the breeze, clogging up municipal drains and lining pavements.
Better yet, take a gander at one of Joburg’s waterways, like the Braamfontein Spruit, which runs through affluent stretches such as the Parkview Golf Course, and you’ll see art-installation-like gatherings of rubbish.
You might pay for your shopping bags and dabble in recycling, but really there’s more to be done in the way of cutting out plastics. This is especially true given the cornucopia of "not currently recyclable" single-use varieties that our big retailers still insist on packaging products in.
Enter Sam and Dom Moleta’s new Fourways store, The Refillery. Last year this young couple (she’s a South African, he’s from New Zealand) and their two small children decided to challenge themselves to a "plastic-free July" and cut out cling wrap, plastic shopping bags, takeaway cups, straws and water bottles.
The trial successfully completed, they attempted to do plastic-free and zero-waste grocery shopping, but it proved tricky. And that got them thinking.
"We decided that if we created an option that made it easy, accessible and mainstream to be eco-conscious we could reduce the plastic pollution we face today. And so The Refillery was born," they say. They quit their jobs and sold their house, and used all their savings to self-fund this new venture.
Their physical space (they sell online too) in the north of Joburg is essentially a grocery store that offers convenient, plastic-free, weigh-and-pay shopping that helps you to stock and restock your pantry with good-quality ethically sourced products.
Instead of buying goods in plastic packaging that you throw away, you refill your own containers in the shop.
The range of pantry staples is extensive. The Refillery sells different kinds of rice and flour, loose-leaf tea, beans and nuts. There are even superfoods (things like chia seeds and hemp powder), spices, honey, oils and vinegars.
The range includes glass containers, metal straws and, significantly, a range of household cleaning products that are natural too. Banish plastic wrap and use the prettily patterned reusable Spaza jug and bowl covers, or the equally fetching Living Eco Beeswax Wraps, which do a similar job in covering crockery and wrapping food.
The Moletas also stock refillable body products, natural facecloths, bamboo toothbrushes and shampoo bars — the latter containing no water — which makes them even more eco-friendly.
Goods are displayed in bulk containers and customers can fill shop-bought glass jars or bottles with the quantity they desire. They can bring their own reusable containers or use The Refillery’s recycled brown paper bags. The couple says what they prefer is "BYOJ — bring your own jar".
If you’re not in their neck of the woods or can’t face Fourways traffic, order online, where they sell the same inventory.
The motive for switching to less plastic? The Moletas put it succinctly: "We have lived and worked [on the ocean] and travelled the world by sea, and have seen first-hand its deterioration and the huge amount of plastic polluting beaches and seas around the world.
"Plus, we have a young family and would love them to be able to experience the world in all its actual beauty.
"So we have decided to do our bit, however small it may be."
Shop online at therefillery.co.za or visit the store at Cedar Square Shopping Centre in Fourways, Johannesburg.