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Product Refill Stations

Of the 4 million plastic containers used every hour by Americans, only 25 percent of it is recycled. The rest is destined to spend 500 years or more in a landfill.

But in 2001, Minnesota based social entrepreneur, Laurie Brown, was responsible for creating a machine that would extend the life of product containers and reduce waste.

A born inventor, Brown made a name for herself selling her own brand of natural cleaning supplies.

After success with her own retail store, she opened her second store, Restore the Earth, in 2000. Having watched as customers reduced waste by returning their empty bottles to her store, Brown and the staff began to refill the empty bottles by hand, and all customers who brought in empty containers for reuse received a one dollar rebate.

This concept would soon evolve into the creation of a bottle refilling machine, later named the “Restore Refill Station”. Aided by new found inspiration and a $70,000 grant from the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance, Brown was able to cover the cost of an automated refill system prototype, as well as the installation of six Restore Refill Stations in Minnesota.

The Restore Refill Station scans a product’s bar code and uses the assigned information to deduce which product, and how much of it, to refill the container with. To operate the machine, you start by opening the door, lifting it straight up. After placing your empty bottle in the filling compartment and closing the door, it will remain locked until the refilling process is over. The machine then caps the bottle with a new lid. Even if a container is not completely empty, the station will fill it just to the top.

To receive a full return, though, it is wise to wait until your bottle spares no drop before refilling. After refilling, the station also prints out a coupon for the customer, readily-activated upon printing, should they choose to use it that visit.

The only catch with the Restore Refill Stations, naturally, are that only Restore products are able to be refilled.  Of all their products the following five are eligible for refilling at a station: their Laundry Detergent, Dish Detergent, Dishwasher Gel Concentrate, Gentle Soap, and All Surface Cleaner.

All products are made from plant based solvents, derived from soy, corn, orange and other biodegradable ingredients. Products are non-toxic and are septic and sewer safe.

A successful twelve years since its conception in Minnesota, the Restore Refill Station can now be found at natural food and product stores in Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin – and at Restore the Earth stores, of course.

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