Gather your bottles: Human Heart Nature's refilling stations are now open!

Since their founding 10 years ago, Human Heart Nature has always had “pro-environment” as one of their core advocacies. They have been following this with sincere and well-researched environmentalist practices, and are now rolling out with refilling stations. Refilling for their Home Care products is now available at their flagship store along Commonwealth Avenue, and their first mall-based store at SM The Block!

Why home care?

“Home care is one of our fast-moving lines, and customers have long been asking for refills because of the volume of usage. This refilling system came from several months of research, sourcing and prototyping because we wanted to ensure safety, traceability, and [adaptability] - that the system is effective and the cost isn't a barrier for scaling up,” Human Nature president and co-founder Anna Meloto-Wilk explains.

If we think about it, we finish up laundry detergent and dishwashing soap a lot faster than our makeup and skincare, simply because each usage requires more product. As such, it makes more (economical) sense to buy laundry detergent and dishwashing soap in big bottles, then refill those using foil packs. But that system still creates trash! A refilling station that allows buyers to directly fill their bottles makes a huge dent in reducing the amount of single-use plastic waste that we produce. Each reusable 20-liter bulk refilling container saves at least 40 bottles of 500ml Dishwashing Liquid and 21 bottles of 950ml Liquid Detergent, respectively. That’s a lot of bottles that aren’t going to the landfill!

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But what about beauty?

Let’s admit it, we PV readers are kikay and definitely looking to make a difference in the one thing we consume the most: personal care products and cosmetics. We even have a long list of our top HHN must-buys so we definitely wanna be able to opt for refilling our toner and body wash bottles instead. So why doesn’t HHN offer this?

Because refilling is currently classified under “filling”, a manufacturing activity, the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act No. 9711 - The Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009 make it highly challenging for the safe refilling of cosmetics products to be accessible and available to most Filipino consumers. Cosmetics, personal care and beauty items are bound by this law; home care items (and select dry foods like coffee beans and nuts) are not.

The FDA has to amend this law first before personal care refilling services can actually be rolled out at a mass scale. The creation of safe, appropriately-regulated cosmetics and home care refilling stations that are as accessible as water refilling stations would spark a radical change in the way people and organizations consume goods and manage plastic waste, and Human Nature continues to be active in helping to make this possible.

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Read before you refill!

Bring your empty, clean, and dry Human Nature Home Care bottles to any of the two refill stations and get P10 OFF for every 500ml, 950ml, or 1L bottle that is refilled. The products currently available for refilling are:

  • Natural Liquid Detergent - P289.75 for 950ml refill

  • Natural Dishwashing Liquid (both Grapefruit Orange and Lemon Calamansi variants) - P169.75 for 500ml refill and P339.75 for 1L refill

  • Baby Bottle & Utensil Cleanser - P189.75 for 500ml refill and P369.75 for 1L refill

  • Baby Liquid Laundry Detergent - P289.75 for 950ml refill

You may refill across the same product variants (for example, fill a Baby Liquid Laundry Detergent container with Natural Liquid Detergent) but only for the same kind of product (detergent to detergent, but not dishwashing liquid to detergent). There is a minimum 500ml refill for any product, but you may bring two 250ml bottles to meet the requirement. You can go through the rest of the FAQs here, which also contains handy tips on properly sanitizing your refill bottles.

Refilling is done in four easy steps, and the HHN store staff does the actual refilling ensuring that the whole process is done swiftly and hygienically.

  1. Refillers tare your bottle so the weight of the container itself isn’t counted towards the actual product weight.

  2. They pour out your refills from the station taps so you can check that the right product is being filled.

  3. The bottle is weighed again to get the final volume.

Now, due to the human nature (get it?) of the refilling process, you might not always be able to refill to the full volume of the container. Don’t fret! When you pay, you’ll actually be charged on a per gram computation to ensure that you never pay more than what you actually get. The prices listed above are just to give a quick idea of around how much you’ll be paying per container size!

Each refill is also labeled with a batch code, expiry date, and weight. This is done for transparency as HHN doesn’t want you to lose your consumer rights. Even if you’re “just” refilling, you can just as easily bring up any complaints or feedback as if you were purchasing items in single-use plastics.

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But what if I want to use my own bottles?

I want to save the Earth but I don’t have an HHN container, why can’t I just bring my own bottles? The short answer is: product-container reactivity.

In high school chemistry, we learn that certain compounds must be stored in very specific container. Some can’t be stored in ordinary glass bottles and must use amber bottles, some can’t touch metal, and only a few items can be stored in plastic.

HHN takes up to 6 weeks (!) in selecting, designing, and testing the appropriate kinds of containers to safely store their products in, with consideration for making the least environmental impact. Stored in the wrong containers, your refill can discolor, lose their fragrance, lose their efficacy, and even degrade the integrity of your container. To ensure customer safety and product satisfaction, HHN only uses containers that have passed their quality standards.

To help reduce plastic waste, you may still bring your other HHN product containers to any Metro Manila branch. They’ve partnered with third-party recyclers to repurpose these old bottles into chairs, basins, hangers, tabo, and other useful household items.

Will they be adding more locations?

As with all their business moves, the HHN refilling hubs are well-designed from top to bottom. While no concrete timetable has been announced, the refilling set-up was designed to be scalable, meaning, it is something that can be reasonably, feasibly, and cost-effectively expanded beyond a two-store or five-item offering.

As for personal care goods and cosmetics, HHN continues to lobby for refilling stations to be approved by the FDA. They are partnering with retail partners, co-eco-brands, and environmental advocacy groups to create refilling standards that are safe and accessible to the mass market.

Human with a Heart

This sounds good to potential buyers, the people on the ‘outside’. But people on the ‘inside’ matter as much. One of HHN’s top goals is to provide dignified labor conditions. The 560-strong company continues to uplift its people by enforcing a strict no-firing policy for all regular employees, maintaining a firm anti-endo stance, and offering full benefits for all regularized employees. Employees are paid not just minimum wages, but rates that are just and livable.

Consumer safety is a top priority - that’s just good business practice. Green formulations and environmentally-safe manufacturing processes are not always the most cost-effective choice, but they are the most moral choice. And while green products have always been tinged with elitism (due to their prices,) HHN has pushed on in delivering the same goods at lower price points.

As I learned more about their efforts and processes, I found HHN to be a truly endearing company. I love they use both their brains and hearts in creating safe and high quality products for its customers, while uplifting the conditions of the environment and of their workers as well! Sustainability is good stewardship, and HHN clearly demonstrates its commitment to it in all its aspects.

As Liz said in her take on Unilever’s similar initiatives, we need to put our money where our mouths are. If you have a local brand that’s trying to do good and aligns with your advocacies, support them by buying!

The Human Nature refilling station are permanent store offerings. Visit them at the 3rd level of SM City North EDSA The Block (telephone numbers 4410043 and 9048418) and at their Commonwealth flagship store (telephone number 784-7722). Human Nature stores are only open from Monday to Saturday, as Sundays are rest days for their workers.

You can also check out their website for more information about their products.