When Kate Bennett was done with education, she wanted to start a business that gave her purpose.

Bennett, a Ukraine native, has always been passionate about the environment and combating climate change. So, on June 1, she started New Way Refillery, through which she sells environmentally sustainable products and helps customers reduce waste by refilling used plastic containers.

“I’ve always wanted to do my best to help the environment any way I can. It’s why I went vegetarian and it’s why I started this,” Bennett said. “We’re in a climate crisis, look at our landfills; we can’t keep doing this. We need to be more sustainable.”

New Way is a delivery service that allows customers to schedule a time for Bennett to drive her van, with New Way’s logo plastered on the side, to customers’ houses.

Customers then bring out their used containers — whether it be shampoo and conditioner bottles or face wash containers — and she refills them with her products. She charges by the ounce.

“The goal is to get people to reduce the plastic they use. Plastic isn’t biodegradable. It just gets smaller and smaller until it’s microplastic, which then gets into our oceans and kills our fish,” she said. “With refilleries, you can continue to use those old plastic containers. Although you can only do that so many times, so I see a lot of people use aluminum or mason jars.”

MORE THAN A REFILLING

New Way also sells environmentally sustainable products. She offers toothpaste tablets to eliminate the need for the constant purchasing of plastic tubes that end up in landfills, and UNPAPER Towels are reusable replacements for the standard paper towels most kitchens have.

Though a new business, she was surprised by the positive response the community has had. She moved to the U.S. five years ago and has been in Grand Junction for about three. She and her husband were unsure if the community was ready.

“But right when I started and tried getting our name out there, I started hearing about how people have been waiting for a refillery and how bad they wanted one,” she said.

One obstacle the business and an environmentally friendly lifestyle faces is affordability. The upfront costs are not cheap, Bennett concedes.

But she thinks it’s a long-term investment since the products last longer and you’re not repurchasing products frequently.

“Don’t start with everything at once. First, make your kitchen more sustainable. Then once you’re in a good place there, move to your bathroom and so forth,” Bennett said.

A 27,000 TON PROBLEM

Bennett also believes plastic pollution is a pressing issue. In 2018, nearly 27,000 tons of plastic was put into U.S. landfills, according to data from the Environmental Protection Agency. As Bennett mentioned, plastics and microplastics often end up in the ocean.

A study published in the journal Nature in January said that conservative estimates conclude that about 300 million microplastics, less than one millimeter in diameter, end up in oceans. Those plastics are then swallowed by fish, and those fish are consumed by us seafood lovers.

Merissa Snyder, community outreach specialist for Curbside Recycling Indefinitely Inc. at 333 West Ave., is ecstatic about New Way Refillery’s presence and thinks that the practices of the business are vital to reducing the plastic imprint on the environment.

“People often think that recycling is all you need to do, but it isn’t. It’s the last ‘R’ in Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose and Recycle,” Snyder said. “Kate has the only refillery out here, and it’s a fantastic idea. We’re so glad she’s here.”

JUST THE BEGINNING

With the help of New Way and other sponsors, Curbside Recycling is hosting a photo contest. People are encouraged to take photos of themselves recycling at home or at their West Avenue. dropoff site, and post it to social media with the hashtags #irecycleGJ and #recycleGJ.

The contest runs through Aug. 27 and winners may receive discounts or certificates to New Way Refillery.

Bennett runs New Way on her own, but given the growth of the business and the response she’s heard from customers and people at the Market on Main Street and Fruita Farmers Market, she thinks she can add an employee next year.

“It’s great to see the response given how young the business is,” Bennett said. “I’m glad to see people are responsive to a sustainable lifestyle.

For information or to schedule a home visit, go to newwayrefillery.com. You can also find New Way on Facebook and Instagram. To be emission- efficient, Bennett said not every ZIP code in Mesa County is served, yet.