With a growing desire to live more sustainable lifestyles, Bangkok has started to see environmentally conscious business owners set up shop across the city. Based on bulk stores in other countries that discourage the use of plastic, three Bangkok-based friends decided to create their own ethically minded business to tackle the Big Mango’s own problem with plastic.
At the start of 2018, Refill Station was launched by three friends: Supatchaya Techachoochert, Chanin Srisuman, and Papawee Pongthanavaranon. This eco-friendly initiative occupies a corner of Better Moon Cafe, and while the store itself is small, its owners have big ambitions.
“We started Refill Station to address the single use plastics problem, where, by 2050, there will be more discarded plastic than fish in the ocean. At present about 80% of plastic ends up in landfills or the environment,” explains Papawee or “Pear”. “Bangkok has had its own problems related to plastic waste like flooding, due to our plastic-clogged waterways.”
Having been open for ten months, Refill Station encourages customers to go green, shopping local and avoiding single-use plastic packaging. “Our aim is to change consumption habits around single use plastics, part of the zero waste movement,” says Pear. To this end, Refill Station’s product range is primarily composed of personal care and cleaning products, which include shower gel, shampoo, detergent, bathroom bleach, and dishwashing liquids. Customers are encouraged to bring along their empty bottles for refill, and everything is calculated by weight. As well as doing their bit for the environment, customers also get products at a lower price than they would do at regular stores and supermarkets.
In addition, Refill Station offers a series of low-waste lifestyle products, including reusable straws, bottles and cutlery; reusable beeswax food wraps; paper cotton buds; reusable make-up remover pads; bamboo toothbrushes; shampoo bars; organic soap; menstrual cups and washable sanitary napkins; cutlery boxes; and cotton net bags for buying fruits and vegetables in the market or supermarket.
In order to encourage low-waste living, Refill Station also runs its own events and workshops, including ones for families and children to “build awareness of the plastics problem”.
Past events include a workshop on making notebooks from recycled materials, and a ‘Speaker Series’ that invited local business owners to share their thoughts and ideas on what influences the shape, experiences and growth of Bangkok. One condition for those using their event space is that the event must not include any single-use plastics.
Inside the same space, the eco-friendly Better Moon Cafe offers a chilled-out spot to work, surf the net, and chat with friends. Customers are welcome to bring their own food with them, although they can’t bring in plastic containers (the cafe lets diners’ borrow plates instead). Refill Station also extends its ethos to the immediate community; people in the neighborhood can borrow utensils and plates to use when buying food from the nearby market — they just have to bring them back and wash them.
For those that do opt to choose from the cafe’s menu, healthy and local options play centre stage. Customers can sip on pressed juices, coffee, or pick from 15 different herbal teas that can either be served iced or served piping hot in a small glass teapot.
Vision of the Future
Refill Station represents a small but growing movement of businesses that are striving to promote eco-friendly lifestyles. “We weren’t sure at first but this concept has proven to be popular with both Thais and expats. We are now developing a new flagship store,” says Pear. Refill Station is also expanding to other eco-minded lifestyle spaces in Bangkok.
By encouraging Bangkokians to rethink how they shop, this humble store-in-store concept is making the city that bit cleaner, one plastic container at a time.