Baird Makinson, left, and Michelle Chan display a bulk size container of product that will be used at their future store, Yukon Refillery, at their home in Whitehorse on March 11. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Reduce, reuse, refill

Entrepreneurs eye starting up a new environmentally-friendly bulk shop to cut down on plastic

A Yukon couple is aiming to help make Yukon homes and the world a little cleaner with a new business that could open its doors next month.

Michelle Chan and Baird Makinson say the Yukon Refillery would be open in a downtown location (there’s a couple of spaces they are looking at) towards the end of April on Fridays and Saturday to start.

There they would sell, in bulk, personal care products, laundry soap and other cleaning supplies.

Rather than picking up plastic bottles of the mass-produced supplies, using the liquid inside and throwing the empty bottles in the recycling or trash and heading out to buy more, residents could bring those empty bottles to the Yukon Refillery and get them filled, continuing to use the containers each time, thus significantly cutting down on their purchase of plastic.

In a March 11 interview, Chan and Makinson made it clear their idea is nothing new.

“We’re not reinventing the wheel,” Makinson said.

In late November local recyclers stopped accepting non-refundable glass at their facilities as they looked at ways to deal with growing costs.

For Chan and Makinson, the move spawned conversations around recycling and the need to reduce waste. Travelling down south, the couple had come across a few shops dedicated to refilling and they realized there’s not a lot of options like that in the territory, though they acknowledged there are some shops that feature a small refilling station area or the use of reusable jars to purchase bulk food items.

Stocking up on bulk goods at some of the local shops using your own jars isn’t always easy when you’re just trying to get in and out, the couple said. It typically involves having to go to one part of the store, weigh the jar and get a tag showing the weight before heading over to the bulk bins to fill up the jars that are then weighed again at the till.

“We are lazy,” Makinson said with a laugh, noting they want to make it easy for Yukoners to buy in bulk and thus reduce the amount of plastic being used.

At the Yukon Refillery, customers would bring in their bottles and jars (or perhaps, if they’ve been forgotten, borrow from the potential jar library they also envision setting up) with staff then weighing the bottle or jar and filling it up with soap, cleaner, laundry detergent or other supplies.

They are also hoping to feature some local products in their store and working to get in touch with local producers here.

As the couple have been ordering and testing out products, they’ve also been working to gauge public interest in the shop via their Yukon Refillery Facebook page.

“There’s been a lot of uptake,” Chan said, noting the response has prompted them to ramp up efforts to open the shop.

It’s meant testing out potential products and ensuring those products meet their criteria of being ethically-sourced materials that are safer for the environment and that offer a full list of ingredients customers can review.

They’ve also worked to ensure most of the goods are coming from Canadian companies, though one that started in Canada is now based in the U.S. And though it’s not required, they are also working to offer some organic products as well.

“It’s been interesting learning for us,” Chan said, noting they want to offer a couple of options for each category of product.

Among other supplies, they already have a couple of powdered and three liquid laundry detergents selected along with a couple of dish soaps including one that comes in block form.

And as more residents ask about specific products on their Facebook page, the couple is working to find those products. As Chan said some want scented cleaners; others want unscented. Some want organic goods, others don’t and so on.

Makinson said they are also exploring the potential for purchasing ingredients to make soap as some have asked about that.

“People know what they want,” Chan said, again highlighting the uptake to the Face book page has been motivating to get the Yukon Refillery up and running.

“The interest is what made us want to do it,” she said.

As efforts continue with a goal of opening in late April in a downtown location, Chan and Makinson will continue to update prospective customers via their page:

Contact Stephanie Waddell at


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Dryer balls, clockwise from left, shave bars, shampoo bars, healing balm and deodorant, centre, in Whitehorse on March 11, will be available from Yukon Refillery when it opens. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

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