The Blue Dot Refill in OB: First Eco-soap Self-serve Refill Store in San Diego

by on April 4, 2014 · 5 comments

in Culture, Economy, Environment, Ocean Beach

By Joe Moreno

What happens when a lawyer leaves Corporate America to get in touch with her inner hippie?

She opens San Diego’s first eco-soap self-serve refill store in Ocean Beach to do her part to  keep our world plastic-free.   Less than a month ago, Deidre Prozinski opened Blue Dot Refill next to Ocean Beach People’s  Organic Food Co-op on Voltaire Street. Within days of hanging out her shingle – and without  any marketing or advertising – she hit her first milestone: $100 in sales in a single day, thanks,  in part, to being right next to a co-op with like-minded customers.

Her business model is simple. Customers bring in their empty single-use plastic bottles for refill  rather than throwing them away. They can sample any of the soaps and lotions and customers  pay by the ounce. The best part is not only are customers keeping the plastics out of the  environment but Prozinski said they are saving 10% – 40% over retail. For customers in a rush,  Blue Dot Refill also offers a “drop and shop” option. They can drop off their empty “single-use”  bottles and return later to pick them up.

“Recycling isn’t enough,” said Prozinski as she pointed out what most people don’t think about, ” If you recycle a plastic bottle, it still exists on our planet. It doesn’t go away. Every single piece  has to go somewhere.”

“Sixty percent [of plastics] don’t get recycled,” said Prozinski. The reasons are complex and she  broke it down in simple terms, “At the end of the day, recycling is a business. Certain polymers  can’t be mixed and someone has to be at the other end to buy the recycled plastic.”

Prozinski is passionate about reducing plastic waste. About a year and a half ago she began  wondering why she hadn’t seen a soap and lotion refill store. “Stores buy rice and beans in bulk,  why not this?” she asked herself.

Her idea was validated in November, on a trip to Placerville, about 50 miles northeast  of Sacramento, when she saw S.O.A.P (Save Our Ailing Planet) doing exactly what she  envisioned. “I went from idea to doors open in three and a half months,” she said. Customers,  excited to see what she’s doing, continue to drop in and give her ideas such as selling yoga mat  cleaners, organic pet shampoos, and massage lotions.

There’s a small irony in that her industrial sized plastic containers used to refill customers  bottles can’t be refilled by her suppliers. But Prozinski hasn’t let that stop her. She’s partnered  with a permaculture business that will use her empty containers for composting bins and  aquaponics. “There’s always a way to make a difference,” she added.

With the growing popularity of her little shop at 4799 ½ Voltaire Street she’s decided to expand  with refill shops in Cardiff and South Park/Golden Hill. After that, she wants to have a refill truck  she can drive to events just like a food truck. In the meantime, Prozinski offers a 10% Farmer’s  Market Discount Day on Wednesdays.

“Refill is the new recycle,” she said. It’s not just her company’s tag line, but her vision for the future.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Derek April 5, 2014 at 4:01 am

To be legit in the cycle of recycling she needs to press for having her containers refilled. I’m sure there is more, thicker plastic in her 55 gallon drums than the cheap flimsy laundry detergent bottles filled by them. Like you stated about recycling individual plastic containers, it’s still in the world. The same can be said about her repurposed 55 gallon drums, they’re still in the environment. She should push her suppliers to refill her containers to make the cycle pure. But kudos to her for beginning the process!

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avatar Deidre Prozinski April 5, 2014 at 3:23 pm

I totally agree with you, Derek. My ultimate goal in reducing the use of plastic is not just what you’ll see in my little 400sqft retail space, but seeds of change have to be planted somewhere. If consumers in San Diego embrace the refill idea, re-use their own bottles numerous times, and show demand for the concept, I will have much more clout with the manufactures in how their products ultimately reach me. I need every one who cares about reducing the amount of plastic being produced and wasted to support the concept for the refill idea to really take hold and gain the traction you suggest. Right now Blue Dot Refill’s products are coming in 1 and 5-gallon containers, not the 55-gallon drums. But when we do start utilizing the drums, I already have resources in place to repurpose them with folks who use them for other applications. This allows a plastic product that those users would already be purchasing new have had another purpose prior to its ultimate use. That’s a win for the Planet in my book. Thanks for the support! :)

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avatar Terrie April 5, 2014 at 10:46 am

Looking forward to stopping by to shop! I remember places like this back in the day.

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avatar Marc S April 5, 2014 at 1:08 pm

Have heard this idea so many times and this is the first I’ve heard of one actually being done. It’s a great idea!

Speaking of repurposing 55 gallon drums. http://RainBarrel.ca is a group in Canada that reuses old 55 gallon food-grade containers as rain barrels. They are expanding into the US.

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avatar OB Dude April 11, 2014 at 9:46 am

Good luck to a new OB Merchant. Years ago on Newport, there was a refill shop for hair products in the 1990′s?? I believe they had to cease operations because manufacturers would not allow them to retail products which required a cosmetologist license but I do not recall all the details. One item of caution is when a retail merchant repackages items, the manufacturer may no longer be liable for injury or contamination.

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