Eliminating plastic waste one community at a time

 In Business

As negotiators from 175 countries meet in Ottawa this week to draft an international plastic pollution treaty, Jacquie Rushlow and Andrew Murray from The Keep Refillery in Creemore are offering our community easy, tangible solutions to take these needed changes into their own hands, without relying on politics.

In four years, Rushlow and Murray’s businesses diverted 300,000 pieces of single use plastic from landfills.

As Beckham, a six-year-old Earth Day visitor said, “This place is saving the world and saving animals by reusing plastic. I don’t just like this place, I love it”

Rushlow and Murray were originally living in Toronto working in television. During one of their assignments in Nairobi, Rushlow backed up to get a wider camera shot. Dropping full bodied into a pool of sludge, Rushlow looked around and realized that the garbage pit she’d fallen into was absolutely packed with North American brand name garbage that was being shipped to Africa.

“It was omni-present; rivers and mountains of plastic waste. Andrew and I always thought we cared about the environment, but this smacked us in the face. When we got home, we decided we needed to change and we needed to start with ourselves,” said Rushlow.

Going plastic-free initially proved challenging; it was easy to bring your own water bottle, use a bamboo toothbrush or reuse a shopping bag, but, as Rushlow states, “We started to order laundry strips and cleaning bars online, which made us very aware of the carbon footprint we were creating by doing that. We realized that there was no real infrastructure in place to really go plastic-free.”

And so, despite zero experience in retail or business ownership, they made a commitment to the planet and to their new Creemore community; the refillery opened in January 2020. A daunting initiative, Murray said “if it didn’t take off, we figured that the worst case scenario was that we would have bought enough plastic free refillable laundry detergent for life.”

Four years later, three corporate stores, heavy-hitting investors plus franchise and enterprise strategic partners on the horizon, the goal of the store was, and still is, a mission-first based business to help people change the way they consume through awareness, education and empowerment.

With corporate stores in Meaford and Kingston, the Keep Refillery is preparing to franchise with the support of key investors that sit on their board, including Nicole Vollebregt former head of global sustainability for Adidas; Chrstine Day, former CEO of Lululemon; and Paul Hollands, former CEO of A&W. All environmental and sustainability activists, they sit on the board and support The Keep Refillery because they want to focus on purpose- driven initiatives.

As Vollebregt said, “The Keep is doing something that is accessible to everyone at a granular, individual level. Every community should have a Refillery and it should be as common as a post office in town.”

And while community-based refilleries are a critical pathway to changing consumer behaviour, Rushlow and Murray are also making headway by securing strategic partnerships with enterprise organizations such as Airbnbs and boutique hotels. Langdon Hall, for example, is Ontario’s first hotel that provides refilling in house for all personal and professional cleaning products. They saved 60,000 pieces of single use plastic from land fill last year by the refilling of their room amenities.”

Rooted in passion, mission and creating change, The Keep Refillery provides solutions that are natural, Canadian-owned and operated, cruelty free, biodegradable, and plastic-free. All of their suppliers are also held accountable for their own waste. Their stock is carefully and thoughtfully curated with high quality products that work. As Rushlow states, “our products have to be outstanding; unless it works better than the product they are currently using, the consumer will go back to what they have.”

For more information visit www. thekeeprefillery.com.

Did you know?

• Experts say the staggering amount of single-use plastic waste is contributing to climate change, biodiversity loss, and health problems for humans and animals above ground and marine;

• Plastic production is projected to increase by 70 per cent by 2040 if business continues as usual;

• 36 per cent of all plastics produced are used in single-use packaging;

• 400 metric tonnes of plastic is produced ever year and takes 450 years to break down (which includes releasing green house gases and the dissemination of micro plastics into the ground and rivers);

• Canadians throw away over 3 million tonnes of plastic annually. The average Canadian household throws away 80kg of plastic waste annually;

•The human body consumes a credit card size of micro plastics every week; • Despite recycling bins and services, only nine per cent of what goes in blue bin actually gets recycled.

Trina Berlo photo: Nottawasaga and Creemore Public School Grade 4 student Emmet Pen Warden fills a bottle with liquid hand soap during an Earth Day outing to The Keep Refillery in Creemore hosted by owners Jacquie Rushlow and Andrew Murray.

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