St. John Gets Unique Soap Refill Store, Eliminating Single-Use Plastic Containers

Residents and visitors to St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands will soon be able to break free from the influx of single-use plastic packaging that consumer and commercial soap companies continuously flood into their beloved Caribbean island.

Set to debut on April 24 is the St. John Eco Station, a unique new outlet where local buyers of biodegradable household and commercial soaps can refill -- not landfill -- their own containers for use in their homes, villas, resorts and businesses.

As reported by the St. John Tradewinds, the Eco Station is one-of-a-kind distribution center for biodegradable cleaning products. Rather than sold in individual containers, these soaps will arrive on the island in bulk, concentrated form -- saving both money and the need for people constantly repurchasing plastic bottles needlessly used only once then tossed out. 

Said Tradewinds: "The idea is simple: Wholesale or retail customers arrive at the Eco Station with a refillable container (or buy one there,) purchase whatever amount of a product they desire, and add the appropriate amount of water. Presto-magico –- their organic laundry detergent, window cleaner, or all-purpose cleanser is ready to use, at a price considerably lower than what’s now available on island."

Eco-Station investor and founder Brian Granite noted that plastic bottles containing commercial cleaning products are a particular problem for local disposal because both one-time-use plastic containers and the chemicals they contain are harmful to the environment.

“We thought, instead of trying to figure out how to recycle this type of plastic in our fragile island ecosystem, why don’t we just eliminate it all together?"

Granite assembled a modified shipping container store, powered it with solar panels, then stocked it with large-scale soap containers, which can dispense cleaning agents by the ounce or by the gallon. Laundry detergent, glass cleaner, liquid dish soap, bathroom and kitchen cleaner, and fabric softeners, each carrying unique St. John names, will be made readily accessible -- and affordable -- to all at The LumberYard, located in Cruz Bay, the island’s population and visitor center.

The movement toward reducing and eliminating single-use plastic gained momentum on St. John in 2016 when a Plastic-Free Island initiative was launched by residents, artists, activists and national park-goers intent on protecting the island from the invasion of single-use plastics. Inspired by the founders of the Plastic Pollution Coalition and Drifters Project, Plastic-Free Island: St. John works to raise awareness and proactively support plastic-eliminating actions like those the Eco Station will offer.

St. John is comprised of two-thirds U.S. National Park and has no landfill. All of its plastic waste must be collected and taken to neighboring St. Thomas, so the burden of unnecessary plastic is especially acute and damaging.

There may be no better-suited place for this pilot green (and measurable) plastic-reducing business concept to influence others well beyond its U.S. territory home. St. John's gorgeous parkland and unspoiled coastal beauty attract a sizeable portion of the 2 million visitors to the USVI annually. So the message of refill not landfill will resonate far and wide.