Reducing single-use plastics has been a hot topic in St. Petersburg for many years. In 2015, St. Petersburg implemented curbside recycling. In 2018, the St. Pete City Council passed an ordinance banning plastic straws as well as a ban on expanded polystyrene, more commonly known as styrofoam, in city facilities. But plastic straws are just one of hundreds of single use plastic products used each day in the United States.
Monica Leonard wants to help St. Pete residents take their sustainable lifestyles a step further. She opened The Refillery, a zero-waste retail concept in west St. Petersburg, for that purpose. Leonard wants residents to rethink the constant cycle of buying household products, throwing out the container and buying again.
Instead of throwing out that empty shampoo bottle, mayonnaise jar or laundry detergent jug, why not clean it and fill it up with safe, eco-friendly household products?
As co-ops have long done with bulk foods, The Refillery’s unique concept provides customers access to bulk household, laundry, bath and body products including laundry detergents, dish soaps, hand soap, shampoo, conditioner and toothpaste. All customers need to bring is an old container to fill.
The Refillery concept began as a brick-and-mortar retail space for Molly’s Suds, Leonard’s first entrepreneurial effort that she founded in 2008. Named after Leonard’s daughter, who was stillborn in 2005, Molly’s Suds was Leonard’s effort to create a safer alternative to common household products with harmful chemicals that absorb through skin. Since its humble beginnings at St. Pete’s Saturday Morning Market, Molly’s Suds provides non-toxic and biodegradable laundry and household products through hundreds of natural grocers, online retailers and zero waste shops throughout the country.
Nearly half of the products sold in The Refillery, located at 7490 30th Ave. N., are Molly’s Suds products or raw ingredients that Molly’s Suds manufactures to create its products. But with nearly a decade of experience in the natural, non-toxic and biodegradable wholesale market, Leonard is also deeply familiar with the high demand products in the industry. The Refillery carries products from multiple wholesale partners, including non-plastic straws made of bamboo, silicone or stainless steel; natural sunscreen; bug repellant; beeswax wraps; menstrual cups and much more.
The Refillery even began a corporate Closed Loop program, offering local businesses the opportunity to buy their cleaning supplies through The Refillery, where they are supplied in refillable five-gallon containers.
The most difficult part, according to Leonard, is getting the word out. That’s why at The Refillery, they’ve created a one-stop-shop atmosphere for education, action and waste reduction. They host team building activities, parties and workshops, teaching customers how to make their own bath salts, lotions, natural deodorants and other tinctures. The Refillery has also teamed up with Black Crow Coffee, a local zero-waste coffee shop, for monthly sustainability meetings.
Leonard provided an update on The Refillery at 1 Million Cups in St. Petersburg Wednesday morning.