Stephanie Regni is the founder of Fillgood, a zero-waste refill service company, for skincare and cleaning products in San Francisco. They pick up and deliver containers to your front door and helps create a zero-waste lifestyle. In our first episode of ‘Be Your Change podcast, we are looking at the impact of plastic waste on our lives and how to develop a zero-waste lifestyle. How we can reduce the use of disposable plastics by changing how we consume and looking at small actions that can make a difference. Every year eight million tons of plastic trash flow into our oceans. That’s about five grocery bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world.

Too Much Waste

Every year eight million tons of plastic trash flow into our oceans. That’s about five grocery bags filled with plastic for every foot of coastline in the world. Countries are stepping up. In France, they banned disposable plastic cups and plates. India’s capital city Delhi has introduced a ban on disposable plastic. But here in the U.S., two-thirds of our trash goes to landfills. Some cities are doing better than others. Like San Francisco.

So in San Francisco, it generates between four and five thousand tons of total garbage per day. Recology touches about half of that material.

Robert Reed is the spokesman for Recology, an employee-owned company that recycles and composts the city’s waste. They have about 45 sites across the West Coast.

So 2000 American tons or 2500 American tons per day handled and managed by Recology of the portion that we touch. We recycle or compost most of that material.

Robert says they get about 100 truckloads of garbage a day. He says 80 percent of San Francisco’s trash is being diverted from landfills.

So that would suggest that of all the ways generated in San Francisco 80 percent is either reused reduced recycled or composted and then we have got another 20 percent to go.

Recology’s goal is zero waste. But things like plastic straws and styrofoam cups can’t be recycled. Robert says we have to take part in reducing the amount of waste going into our landfills. That leads us to our main guest: Stephanie Regni. She is the founder of FillGood, a zero-waste refill service company, for skin care and cleaning products in San Francisco. They pick up and deliver containers to your front door.

Be part of the solution

How did Stephanie Regni decide to launch a zero-waste lifestyle brand and start Fillgood

Stephanie was inspired while taking a class at the Recology Center in San Francisco. Recology worldwide is known for their success in managing waste and having high recycling rates. She had the idea while she was just talking with somebody in the class about how refilling containers was great because it can save so much packaging and reduce waste so much. Having myself implemented this at home when I go grocery shopping I use my containers. I noticed that there was not enough offer for skincare products and cleaning products in bulk. You can find a lot of food in bulk. But when it comes to home products it’s rare. So I said OK why not starting something about that? It’s complicated to think about bringing your containers to a store. It needs a lot of motivation and I am talking with my friends you know people around me. I notice that there is something that they would never do. So that’s how the idea of home delivery came up.

How does FillGood work?

Fillgood Store

People can order home goods and cleaning products that are refillable online. At first, they buy a container. And then tI deliver at their house to avoid extra packaging. I’m a local business only which means I only deliver in the Bay Area right now and I really wanted to make it as easy as possible for people. The only thing that they need to remember is to put the empty containers on the doorstep so I can take them back in and wash them and then refill fill them again.

It’s a kind of old model milk delivery with more technology and a website.

Stephanie’s company, FillGood, has two main objectives:

  • Reduce plastic waste by eliminating disposable packaging,
  • Offer only safe products — she says the beauty industry doesn’t have a strong regulatory system. Stephanie checks all the ingredients one by one. I also contacted the brands to make sure that they disclose everything gradients contained in the products. So right now I have liquid soap and I have a few cleaning products so I’m starting with a small selection.
  • Educate her audience about a zero-waste lifestyle and the danger of green-washing. A lot of toxic chemicals in products are advertised as ‘natural and many brands do not integrate into their sustainability philosophy the issue of the plastic waste generated.

Recycling is not the solution

Americans generate about 250 million tons of trash and recycle or compost only about one-third of that. Recycling is not a long term solution. People need to realize the goal should be not to use plastic. Stephanie says there is a rule for this — the four ‘R’s.

  • Reduce all the things you don’t need. Don’t use plastic bags at the grocery store.
  • Reuse Like our shoes, our clothes, and our phones.
  • Recover things that can not be recycled.
  • Recycle Stephanie says recycling should be our last resort.

When I talk about plastic waste I’m talking about single-use plastic waste especially because they are really the ones that are that don’t make sense anymore. These are things that you that to use once usually for a short period of time and then you throw it away and then you replace it by a new one and you do that repeatedly.

So for example in the U.S. alone people consume

  • 40 billion plastic utensils; 40 billion every year and they are not recyclable so they go straight to landfills.
  • And if you talk about plastic straws it’s 500 million a day in the U.S. again.
  • And the other one is plastic water bottles. So it’s 50 billion a year in the U.S that and we think about when we think about plastic water bottles I’m sure people think well it’s recyclable so it doesn’t solve the problem. But actually only 23 percent of these bottles are actually recycled.

The recycling industry is not a long term solution. It depends on many factors that we don’t manage and we don’t control.

When the oil is cheap it’s less expensive to have to manufacture new plastic than to use recycled plastic. And I mean it’s a business it’s a market. So if it’s not cost-effective to recycle plastic then the companies that are in this business will not do it.

Reducing our consumption is key

We can be change-makers in our daily lives by taking small steps to reduce our ‘plastic footprint. For example:

  • Carry a knife and fork in your purse or bag and tell restaurants you don’t need any plastic utensils. Yes so there are a few issue items like this that I totally banned from my life and honestly, it’s not difficult.
  • Put some plastic bags in your car and put them everywhere they are. We can get reusable bags when you go to a conference everybody gives you their brochures in our reusable bags….when at your grocery store. so there are tons of opportunities to get them so keep them and put them everywhere in your car at home. At work in your office. And so you’re sure to always have one when you go outside and buy something.

This is how change happens: altering one thing at a time in our own lives. Stephanie says her mission is to transform people’s habits, one product at a time. But that’s very difficult. You know we live in a world where people are very busy and they just continue to do things with the way they’ve always done. And so yeah it’s really hard to change. And nobody really tells them that they could do differently and better. The other thing is to find brands, manufacturers, that are ready to change the way they sell their products in large quantities and to accept this new model of refill. So there are more and more stores around the world, not only in the U.S. but also new examples in France, in the U.K., in Europe in general. So you know it’s coming.

It’s small, it’s a movement. And it’s growing.

When did you decide to be part of the solution?

So it’s always been something that was very important for me. And when I moved to San Francisco. Everything changed. New country, new people and new culture and since I’m surrounded by people who start a company. It can be a small one a big one. And my husband is an entrepreneur. It’s been 10 years now. So at some point, it became almost natural. And I said, ‘OK I want to do that too.’ And it’s just it took me sometimes to know exactly what to do.

What would you recommend to people who want to create positive change?

The only rule is to do it slowly because otherwise it’s overwhelming and you feel that you can never do it. So you know step by step one step after another.

Just try things and see if it works and then change. It has to come from a personal need. So when you really feel that something is missing and that you have an idea for it and you think you can do so. So it has to be personal. And then you go out there and talk to people around you. And see what they think about your ideas and talk to people who also are in the same field. We have plenty of opportunities to consume less and to consume better. And I think this is something that we really need to think about and to integrate.

Key Takeaway

You can be a changemaker too

Meeting Stephanie Regni of FillGood and Robert Reed from Recology completely changed my perception of plastic waste. Scientists predict we’ll have more plastic than fish in our oceans by 2050. I don’t want to contribute to that. So I have started to change my shopping behavior by paying even more attention to plastic packaging. I email companies to let them know they should not use plastic. I bought some bamboo straws and refrain from using plastic straws. I am working on a zero-waste lifestyle and a plastic-free home.

A Zero-waste lifestyle requires patience.

It is hard! Hard to refuse… Hard to remember to bring your reusable products but we all need to take part in creating a plastic-free world.

  • Start by having reusable bags, reusable coffee cups and straws,
  • Refuse plastic packaging at the grocery store and farmers market
  • Support women-led local initiatives like Stephanie.
  • Plastic straws should be a no-no

You will never think about plastic in the same way

When I talk about plastic waste, I’m talking about single-use plastic waste especially because they are really the ones that are that don’t make sense anymore

Go Deeper

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