Refill Innovator ReCo Is Using Tech To Drive Convenience For Its Eco-Conscious Customers

Ilona Marchetta
on 31 December 2022

Sydney-siders Danling Xiao and Anett Petrovics are making it more convenient than ever for businesses and consumers to participate in a circular economy with their tech-enabled hyper-local refill delivery start-up, ReCo.

Refills and the circular economy

The refill market has boomed in the past 12 months thanks to global efforts to reduce plastic production and waste.

In fact, one of the biggest ways you can personally help drive lower carbon emissions is by switching to refills. The Ellen Macarthur Foundation estimates that replacing single use bottles for beauty, personal care and cleaning products with a refill option would affect an 80-85% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions due to packaging and transport savings.

The concept is simple: Order a liquid or powder formula in a ‘forever’ container, and when you run out, refill that same container by sourcing the formula in a sustainable or circular form of packaging. Some companies provide their refills in biodegradable or compostable packets, while others ask you to mail the refill packets back to them so they can be re-used. Buying from a bulk grocery store is another way to source formulations without any packaging.

ReCo is bridging a gap by completely eliminating the need for consumers to buy the refills in packaging. The consumer need not do anything except leave their empty jars outside when they’re expecting their next ReCo delivery.

ReCo making a home delivery

Traditional idea with a digital twist

“We’ve reinvented the milk-man,” says Anett. “Convenience is the biggest enemy of sustainability. People told us they want to be sustainable but it requires a lot of effort. We want to be able to create a model that is commercially viable and the customer wins because it is so convenient.

“We’re proud to have bootstrapped our way to make part of our vision come true. Now our mission is to scale up our circular model while staying true to our principles.”

The company has been operating in stealth mode for 12 months and has just formally launched in the Sydney metro area, with an organically grown customer base of over 250 that includes Deputy Lord Mayor of Sydney Jess Scully.

ReCo has launched with two products through a partnership with the NSW-based natural cleaning product brand SimplyClean that has already saved more than 1000 plastic containers from being produced. ReCo obtains the formulas in bulk and fills orders in its standard glass jars, to make cleaning and refilling more efficient.

ReCo glass jar
ReCo packages formulas in glass jars with a hardy long-lasting label in a minimal design.

Tech, the business and life partners said, is at the core of their business model and development – it’s enabled them to create a seamless digital experience for customers and given them the insight into user behaviour that will help them scale while remaining hyper-local, to keep transport emissions low.

Appreciators of art might recognise Danling as the creator of Wasteland, a 24-metre tall installation made from recycled marine debris from the Great Barrier Reef that featured at Sydney Customs House in 2018.

“We’ve made it our life’s passion to help a more sustainable world,” Danling said. “It’s what the world urgently needs.”

‘ReCo’ is actually a play on two words. “Reimagine and co-create,” said Anett. “A sustainable future can only be created with collective effort.”

ReCo is keen to partner with businesses producing eco-conscious formulas and it’s especially keen to expand its customer base of workplaces.

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