SOUTH PORTLAND — Monica Cooper, who works at a hair salon in South Portland, came into GoGoRefill on a recent fall day.

Laura Marston, owner of GoGoRefill of South Portland, opened the business after she couldn’t find the products she was looking for that would allow her to reduce her use of plastics. Bonnie Washuk photo

It’s a one-of-a-kind store where customers can find a wide range of products in giant containers — for instance,  huge tubs of laundry soap, liquid hand soap and liquid dishwasher detergent — from which they can refill smaller containers they bring from home or work.

Cooper came in for hair products. She said she likes reusing containers and generating less waste to be recycled or trashed.

“I’m over the idea that in order to have effective, good products they have to come in new packages every time,” she said. Because when we throw away trash, “there is no away,” Cooper said. “It goes somewhere. It’s time to go back to thinking about reducing first. Then reusing. Then recycling.”

That’s music to the ears of Laura Marston, who opened GoGoRefill in July.

She gave up a solid job working as a software consultant to start her small business, selling products in bulk to help shoppers generate less waste.


“I had been cutting out single-use plastic for my own family, realizing I needed more options to lower our waste for food and home supplies,” Marston said.

Bulk liquid soap is one of the many products offered at GoGoRefill in South Portland. Bonnie Washuk photo

At first, the idea of opening a refill store “started as a joke: ‘OK I’m going to quit my good job and open a bulk store.’” But she researched and wondered and researched some more to find out “was I the only person trying to figure out how to find plastic-free solutions?”

She learned she was not. “It’s happening all over the world.”

The refill-store turned serious as Marston discovered many products are available to help consumers reduce and reuse.

“I was inspired by all the small businesses popping up trying to solve this problem, soap companies that don’t package in plastic.” She came up with a business plan “and took the jump.”

In her store, customers bring their containers, weigh them, then fill them up with a product and then weigh the container again to get a price. To fill up an average-size bottle of dish liquid cost about $3; to refill a bottle of hand soap was $3. There is no plastic waste.


Customers can buy attractive refill bottles (like pretty mason jars with metal pumps) or bring in their own.

Reusable wool balls sold at GoGoRefill not only replace dryer sheets without creating waste every load, but also cause clothes to dry faster, say advocates. Bonnie Washuk photo

There are plenty of products at GoGoRefill that can be transferred to smaller containers, but there are many other products that help buyers reduce waste, including beeswax reusable sandwich wrap, lunch boxes where no plastic bags are needed, wool dryer balls, “unpaper” towels, reusable bags for produce, and totes with the words: “The Best Things in Life Are Plastic Free.”

Customer Tracey Jasas-Hardel of Yarmouth said she was at the store to refill her powder dishwasher detergent box, a product she bought at Hannaford. “My goal is less plastic,” she said. “I’m done with plastic.”

Though the store has only been open a few months, response has been positive, the owner said.

“I’m surprised,” Marston said. “People came in on Day One with their containers ready to fill. I’ve had countless people walk through the door and say ‘Thank you. We needed this.’ That fuels you.”

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