The Refillery in Squirrel Hill affords a waste-free buying expertise

The refillery is not a typical BYOB facility. Customers arrive with empty bottles, fill them with personal care and household items (like shampoo, lotion, makeup, dish soap, and laundry detergent), and then pay by weight and volume.

Owner Larissa Russo’s mission is to reduce single-use plastic and packaging by making reuse easy and affordable.

After a series of pop-up events across town, Russo opened the brick-and-mortar store in Squirrel Hill in late October. It’s located on Murray Ave. 1931 and is endowed with sustainably manufactured, zero-waste products to help reduce Pittsburgh’s impact on the environment.

Larissa Russo. Photo courtesy of The Refillery.

The public can bring any kind of clean, empty container from home – Russo says glass kombucha bottles are popular – or buy one at the store. The refillery also stocks glass and plastic bottles and jars made in Pennsylvania.

An operator weighs your container and sends you off to check the selection and select the desired quantity. At the checkout, the weight of the empty container is deducted from the weight of the filled container. Customers can also order online and let store staff handle the process.

Everything in the store is made in the United States and Russo tries to source local materials whenever possible to support the other small businesses in town. Less shipping means less CO2 emissions.

Covid-related backups of the supply chain have made procurement difficult. But it was the pandemic that led Russo to start the business.

The Strip District resident wasn’t always a zero-waste warrior. An engineer by profession, Russo was often too busy to pay much attention to what ended up in her trash can. A few years ago she started making a few simple changes, including her own mug in cafes and reusing plastic bottles and bags.

“Like many of us in the past year and a half, the pandemic has shifted and confirmed my personal and professional values,” she says. “I was at a point in my engineering career where I could no longer see my role as effective or meaningful. I was empty and asked questions like “How can I really make a difference?” ‘What can I do to help my community?’ “

Russo found inspiration at TikTok. The social media app is teeming with 45-second videos about the climate crisis and gas stations in different parts of the world. The stores are common in Europe, Canada, California and New Jersey. Peach + Park offers the service in Beaver County.

Photo courtesy of The Refillery.

Last April Russo quit her job to devote herself entirely to refillery. The first of 37 pop-up events took place on June 13 at The Neighborhood Flea in the Strip District. The concept was an instant hit.

After a stormy summer, Russo is excited to take root in Squirrel Hill.

“I believe that individuals have the power to influence big changes,” says Russo. “The Refillery will continue to be a driver and mediator of change within the Pittsburgh community and beyond.”

Larissa RussoretailSquirrel HillSustainabilityThe Refilleryzero Waste

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