Opinion | Stop buying the bottle and embrace the environmentally friendly benefits of refill stations

Daily bathroom routines are a major source of plastic waste and environmental degradation.


Dimia Burrell

A refill station for shampoo bottles is seen at Basic Goods in Iowa City on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022.

Grace Hildahl , Opinions Columnist

In recent years, we have seen an emergence of eco-friendly consumers opting out of traditional plastic usage. Navigating through the climate crisis, people have passed up on single-use plastics such as bottles, bags, cutlery, and straws for reusable versions.

These lifestyle adjustments, most common at supermarkets and restaurants, are a step in the right direction. However, these progressive improvements often cease when it comes to changes in the bathroom.

Although shampoo and conditioner bottles may last a bit longer than the average plastic water bottle, they are still single-use products. However, an environmental solution has evolved: refill bottles.

We’ve all heard the classic saying “reduce, reuse, and recycle,” but I think it’s time we add “refill” to that list.

Refill stations are a semi-new concept that need to become a viral, lifelong trend for everyone.

Using refill stations, consumers can directly cut out plastic waste when buying new bathroom products. Instead of repurchasing a plastic bottle and creating waste, simply bring the empty bottle, or even a glass jar, to a refill station.

While hygiene is vital to human health, the plastic-contained products we rely on in the bathroom are dirtying and destroying the environment.

A bathroom plastic study by Johnson & Johnson estimated that 552 million 15-ounce shampoo bottles end up in landfills each year.

As unnecessary waste piles up, the toxic chemicals used in plastic production, such as BPA, leach into water sources, the atmosphere, and soil to further damage ecosystems and pose a threat to human health.

These plastic landfill residents also biodegrade at extremely slow rates, taking up to 1,000 years to decompose. During decomposition, the plastic bottles break down into microplastics, or minuscule non-biodegradable plastic pieces. Microplastics bioaccumulate and eventually harm all organisms who ingest them — even humans.

Considering the toll plastic pollution has on the environment and ourselves, one would think we would be willing to make some serious sustainable lifestyle changes in the bathroom.

However, nearly 40 percent of Americans don’t recycle in the bathroom, according to the Johnson and Johnson study.

But are these statistics even surprising?

Think about your bathroom routine. Are you taking the time to recycle your empty toiletries bottles? Most likely the convenience of your bathroom waste bin compared to bringing bottles to your recycling bin, if you even have one, triumphs the latter.

Even if you are recycling used products, sadly, you have to question if the products make it through the process. For example, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, only 32.1 percent of recyclable materials were recycled in 2018.

Instead of relying on recycling centers and the comfort that millions of others are polluting through bathroom plastics, you should change the way you consume bathroom products.

At a refill station, you can restock any container with your desired product, whether that be shampoo, conditioner, body wash, or even more house-wide products like hand soap, dish soap, and laundry detergent.

Refilling prolongs the use of one container while minimizing the need to buy another, therefore reducing excess air, and water pollution that is derived from the plastic bottle’s toxic lifestyle.

Luckily, some Iowa City stores are adapting to the positive lifestyle change that is the normalization of refills.

If you’re looking to adapt to a more sustainable lifestyle in downtown Iowa City, both Basic Goods and The Store offer refill stations to the community.

As University of Iowa students and residents of Iowa City, we can make positive, environmentally friendly lifestyle changes by using refill stations.

The culprit isn’t the conditioner bottle, but convenience. Get out of your comfort zone, and start refilling your bathroom products.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.


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