Refilling stations in Philippines’ sari-sari stores provide daily consumer goods

As the world grapples with the environmental crisis of plastic pollution, innovative solutions are needed to curb the proliferation of single-use packaging. The concept of informal retailers offering product refills is not a novel one. Startups such as Algramo in Chile, has expanded internationally and partnered with companies such as Unilever. In recent years, a proliferation of such establishments and brands has emerged in the Metro Manila region and other parts of the Philippines, with the aim of addressing the escalating issue of plastic pollution.

Greenpeace Philippines, Impact Hub, and the local government of San Juan City (bordering Metro Manila) have joined forces to launch “Kuha sa Tingi” (KST), an initiative aimed at providing consumer goods refills in small quantities at neighborhood convenience stores or sari-sari, with the goal to help reduce the environmental impact of plastic waste and single-use sachets. The KST programme is currently in the pilot phase and was launched in November 2022 and currently includes 10 neighborhood convenience stores for refilling schemes in the city of San Juan.

A 2018 United Nations report revealed that the Philippines is one of the five countries responsible for half of the world’s plastic waste, with a significant proportion of this waste entering the ocean via the country’s rivers.

Customers bring their own containers and fill them with the desired quantity. As part of the pilot phase, KST currently offers refills of four products at a minimum quantity of 30 ml, equivalent to one sachet. These include dishwashing liquid, retailing at P2.50, laundry detergent at P4.54, fabric conditioner at P4.77, and a 2-in-1 bodywash at P14.60. KST procures products from Chemlux, a local supplier similar to hotels and food chains.

Refilling stations offer a number of benefits to consumers, such as a reduction in plastic waste generated by single-use packaging, cost savings, and convenience. Stations are often operated by informal retailers, offering customers the opportunity to purchase only the amount of product they require, thus reducing waste and supporting the local economy.

Additionally, refilling stations can also play a role in reducing the carbon footprint associated with the production, transportation, and disposal of packaging materials, thus providing a sustainable option for consumers.

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