Now I really need to read the user manual for my trade scales, because it is time for me to start introducing refills. I've decided to start with the cleaning side, to help ease into the logistics at market.
I have ordered my cleaning products from SESI, which is a social enterprise based in Oxford. There are a couple of things I like about SESI. First, they operate a circular refill system. I order my products from them in 20L and 5L tubs. This is so I can keep the 20L tubs at home, and bring the 5L tubs to market, topping up again as needed. When I have empty tubs, SESI will take them back from me, refill them, and send them out again.
Second, all of their products are biodegradable, vegan, and cruelty-free. They are safe for septic tanks, and in my opinion smell nicer than the old 'mainstream' products I had been using.
SESI's circular refill system differentiates them from other suppliers I've looked into, who take back empty tubs for recycling or to use in their own supply chain, but don't refill for customers. Everyone has a different tick list for priorities, and for me personally number 1 is to tackle single-use plastics. And number 2 is to do what I can to reduce demand for virgin plastics. Recycling empty containers is positive, but it still means means more virgin plastic - and therefore more finite fossil fuels - is required to make new containers.
I won't be stocking plastic prefilled bottles of SESI products that you must purchase first, so there is no requirement that you have to bring back a specific container for refill. However, I won't refill drinks bottles, in line with SESI's guidelines, due to the risk that children or people who don't speak English could mistake it for a beverage.
Here's what I have in stock at the time of this post:
- Washing-up Liquid
- Biological Laundry Liquid
- Non-bio Laundry Liquid
- Fabric Conditioner
- Surface Cleaner
- Glass Cleaner
- Toilet Cleaner
- Cleaning Vinegar (6% acid vs 5% for cooking vinegar - this makes is 20% more acidic than cooking vinegar, FYI)
- Bicarbonate of Soda
Here is a link to the SESI website showing the labels: https://www.sesi.org.uk/refills/refill-products
I've done a price comparison by going online to sites like Tesco, Sainsbury's, and Morrisons and looking up the prices of laundry liquids, surface cleaners, etc. In the interest of transparency, I will endeavour to update this occasionally but I'm talking every couple of months, not weekly.
In some cases I can match or beat supermarket own brand. In a few cases I'm on the 'name brand' end of the scale. I'd love to say I can always beat the cheapest price - unfortunately Bea Johnson thinks that because 15% of a product's price is packaging, that means refills are automatically 15% cheaper and she tells this to her TED Talk audiences.
To that I say.... Hahahahahahaha!! Nice one, Bea.
Maybe that will be true when SC Johnson and Tesco/Sainsbury's/Morrisons with their huge buying power and economies of scale start operating refill stations. While it's just the little guys at social enterprises trying to save the world, this expectation just isn't realistic. However, SESI does do a good job of making their products competitively priced.
Here is what the prices per 100ml/100g* look like today. I've included Ecoleaf for comparison. And Ecover/Method where applicable, but you heard that both those brands were bought by SC Johnson, who still test on animals, right? And they're super expensive in most cases. Yikes.
* I'm using 100ml = 100g for the purposes of measurement, as my scales can only measure weight and not volume.
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