'Woke' and cost-conscious? Refill stations test Filipino consumers

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 18 2019 06:47 AM

Unilever's All Things Hair Refillery will sell hair care products per gram until April 14. ABS-CBN News

MANILA -- Consumer goods giant Unilever is testing Filipino spending habits while helping save the environment with its first shampoo and conditioner refilling station in Quezon City.

"All Things Hair Refillery" sells hair products at a discount and encourages shoppers to recycle old bottles to reduce waste. It was set up in response to demand from environment-conscious customers, Unilever marketing director for hair Ann Esteves told ABS-CBN News. 

"I know globally there has been an awareness, going on with the issue on plastic and I think consumers are also demanding a local solution for that… It’s more of thinking of yourself as a consumer, even in your own choices you really try to make an impact where you can, and [that's] being woke," Esteves said.

All Things Hair Refillery in Trinoma. ABS-CBN News

At 3 refilling stations in select Ayala malls, consumers can get as much as 20 percent discount per milliliter compared to buying the packaged ones. 

A refilled 182 ml of TRESemmé Keratin Smooth Shampoo costs P105.55 at the refilling station compared to between P120 to P125 for a 170 ml bottle. Shoppers without an empty bottle can purchase one for P10. 

Select shampoo and conditioner products are sold per gram. ABS-CBN News
Shoppers can buy an empty bottle for P10. ABS-CBN News

Discounts can help Unilever understand the behavior of the consumers, which, in turn, could help refine future sustainability plans of the company, said vice president for Sustainable Business and Communications Ed Sunico. 

"Would an eco-friendly shopper be ok with no discount because he knows he’s helping the environment or is a discount integral or important for an eco-shopper. These are really tough questions," Sunico said. 

"At this point we have more questions than answers… Hopefully all the learnings we get from this pilot allow us to have a viable solution toward making this more available to more areas," Sunico said. 

Results of the pilot test from March 23 to April 14 will determine if Unilever can expand the program to other products, he said.


A report released in March by the non-government organization GAIA showed that the Philippines uses a "shocking" amount of single-use plastic, including nearly 60 billion sachets a year. 

A total of 48 million shopping bags were used per day, adding up to more than 17.5 billion a year, GAIA said. 

Recognizing the sachet waste problem, Unilever made "very big commitments" to grow sustainably by implementing efforts such as the use of 100 percent compostable and reusable packaging materials by 2025, Sunico said. 

Unilever's marketing director for hair Ann Esteves and vice president for Sustainable Business and Communications Ed Sunico. ABS-CBN News

Eco-friendly company Human Nature in March also rolled out 2 refilling stations in its flagship store in Commonwealth and in a Quezon City mall for its "fast-moving" home care products, its founder Anna Meloto-Wilk told ABS-CBN News.

Products such as liquid detergent, dishwashing liquid and baby bottle and utensil cleanser can be bought and paid for per gram, she said. 

Human Nature's home care product refilling station in its Commonwealth flagship store. Handout

Consumers just need to bring empty, clean, dry and sanitized bottles for product refills, Wilk said. 

"Cost isn't a barrier for nationwide adaption," Wilk said, adding that Human Nature was working with designers to come up with simpler versions for nationwide implementation. 

Wilk said the SM North Edsa refiling station will be a permanent fixture.

Human Nature is also urging the government to allow refilling for cosmetic products to further reduce wastes.

"We only have one planet in which to live in, we don’t have an option B even if Elon Musk is working towards re-locating people to Mars...The best legacy we can leave them is a liveable planet that can sustain them and a beautiful environment for them to enjoy," Wilk said.