Refillism aims to reduce plastic waste

Plastic bottles. Plastic straws. Plastic bags.

For the average York County resident, consuming single-use plastic is part of everyday life. And few of them think about where these elements end up: the landfill.

A local entrepreneur hopes to change this mentality by focusing on the age-old motto of “Reduce. Reuse. Recycle”.

York-based Refillism opened in April, and store owner Elizabeth Bower has big plans to shape York’s future simply by consuming less plastic.

“It’s a place where you can bring your own bottles and jars and fill them with household and beauty products,” Bower said. “So these are low-waste, biodegradable products. Essentially, an eco-friendly neighborhood store.”

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Refillism, located at 38 S. Beaver St., is home to every type of cleaning product under the sun. From personal care products like shampoo or body wash to household products like laundry detergent and dish soap, customers pay per ounce to refill their reusable bottles.

Refillism on South Beaver Street in York, Wednesday August 31, 2022. Photo by Dawn J. Sagert

And while many Bower customers are “refill” pros who bring their own containers, Refillism also offers a line of glass bottles and jars for customers new to the refill journey.

“Our mission every day is to bring in a person and change a little habit in their routine – we did what we’re supposed to do,” Bower said.

While customers can find home care and bath products, Refillism does not stock the traditional brands found in grocery stores.

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Instead, Bower has partnered with eco-friendly labs across the United States to bring non-toxic, organic, and cruelty-free products to its store.

“Refill stores aren’t a new concept because they’re in larger metropolitan areas,” Bower said. “York was ready for one.”

When tagging prices, Bower wanted to make sure they were fair and competitive. Through cross comparisons with Walmart and Amazon, Bower was able to create unique prices.

A mural is displayed on the south side of Refillism on South Beaver Street in York, Wednesday August 31, 2022. Photo by Dawn J. Sagert

For example, Refillism’s Multi-Surface Cleaner costs $0.30 an ounce. With the average consumer bringing a 10-ounce bottle, it would cost $3 for a fill-up.

“How much do you spend on your eco-friendly options at Target and Walmart? Bower said. “It’s definitely very affordable when you jump on board with the filler.”

Initially, Bower launched Refillism as an online store during the pandemic — with occasional exposures from in-person sellers. As more and more people sought out this type of business in a variety of bricks and mortar, Bower went on to open his own business in downtown York.

Various home and beauty products are available at Refillism on South Beaver Street in York on Wednesday August 31, 2022. Photo by Dawn J. Sagert

When she’s not running her boutique, Bower also works as an interior designer.

“I think my favorite thing about refillism is getting people to think about the things they do every day and make small changes to their lifestyle,” Bower said. “It will not only be useful to you now, but also to our future generation.”

— Contact Tina Locurto at or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.

Bryce K. Locke