Glorious, Plastic-free Shopping at the Refillery

by | Apr 21, 2022 | Food and Drink, Johannesburg, Markets/Shopping | 13 comments

Over the past two weeks I’ve seen dozens of heartbreaking pictures of the recent flooding in Kwa-Zulu Natal, and there’s one image I can’t get out of my mind: a shot by photojournalist Jacques Nelles of a Durban beach piled high with plastic waste. Apparently many of the flash floods in and around Durban — which killed hundreds of people — were caused by storm drains choked with plastic. Single-use plastic is killing us, yet we keep voraciously consuming it because there seems to be no alternative.

That was a sad and serious opening paragraph. But I promise the rest of my news is positive: I’m here to tell you, on the eve of Earth Day, that there is a wonderful plastic-free/packaging-free grocery store in Joburg: The Refillery. Shopping at the Refillery will help you feel like you’re doing something, however small, to reduce the massive amount of deadly plastic floating around this world.

The Refillery in Linden
The Refillery in Linden.

I’ve known about the Refillery for a couple of years and ordered online from them once or twice during the 2020 lockdown. Initially all of the Refillery’s branches were in what I call “the far north” (Fourways, Morningside, Hyde Park, and Pretoria), where I rarely venture. But last year the Refillery opened a location in Linden, one of my favorite suburbs, and after a glowing Instagram review by fellow blogger the Scribs and Nibs, I finally went in a couple of months ago.

My love affair with the Refillery started the moment I walked through the door and I’ve returned at least once a week (sometimes several times a week) ever since.

Plastic-free items for sale at the Refillery
One of many beautiful displays in the Refillery.

What is the Refillery?

The Refillery concept is simple: They sell food, cleaning supplies, and personal care items in bulk, and encourage customers to bring their own containers. The Refillery also sells plastic-free containers — glass jars and bottles, mostly — at reasonable prices, and provides brown paper bags for people who forget their own containers. A Refillery staff member weighs your containers, then you fill them with whatever you want to buy, then you pay for your items by weight.

Refillery weigh and pay
This handy sign explains it all.
Bins of food at the Refillery
Each bin lists its ingredients, nutrition information, and price per 100 or 500 grams.
Cleaning and personal care products at the Refillery
Cleaning and personal care products.
Olive oil, tea, vinegar
Olive oil, vinegar, tea, etc.

The Refillery has every food, cleaning, and personal item imaginable that can be sold in bulk — pasta, grains, cereals, baking supplies, herbs and spices, coffee and tea, dried fruit, olive oil, candy, nuts, shampoo, etc. — all plastic-free. Here are some of my favorite things to buy at the Refillery:

  • Coffee
  • Granola
  • Chickpea pasta (my new favorite food — so much tastier and healthier than regular pasta)
  • Rice
  • Honey
  • Olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • Dried sorgum, dried lentils, dried chickpeas
  • Household cleaners and laundry detergent
  • Hand soap
  • Easter candy
  • A hundred other things
Peanuts and raisins from the Refillery
Peanuts and raisins that I bought yesterday, packed in my old pickle and mayo jars.
Jar of Easter Smarties
I bought this cute jar of Easter Smarties for Thorsten last week.

Why I Love Plastic-free Shopping at the Refillery

In addition to the surge of smugness that I feel every time I buy food without packaging, I love shopping at the Refillery for two other reasons: 1) The beautifully designed, aesthetically pleasing interior; and 2) The knowledgeable, engaging staff. Jo and Ayanda, the two women who manage the shop, are particularly helpful and fun to talk to. I look forward to seeing them every week.

Ayanda at the Refillery
Ayanda Lindsey, who was working at the Refillery yesterday.

I like that going to the Refillery makes me think carefully about everything I throw away. I’m less likely to chuck away that plastic yogurt container or jam jar than I was before, because I know I can use those containers at the Refillery. Lastly, I like how shopping at the Refillery has inspired me to experiment with new recipes using all the interesting grains and pastas they sell.

I think stores like the Refillery are more common in America and other parts of the world. But it’s the only store of its kind in Joburg, as far as I know, and sorely needed. All the other Joburg stores I shop in, from Pick-n-Pay to Woolworths to the local fruit and veg shops (I’m looking at you, Impala), use huge and unnecessary amounts of plastic and other packaging. This has to change before we all drown in it.

You might be wondering how the prices at the Refillery compare to regular grocery store prices. I tried to figure that out but it’s difficult for people who aren’t very good at budgeting or math, like me. I do know that some items are definitely more expensive at the Refillery, since the quality is higher and the sourcing is more difficult. Other items are similarly or even lower priced than the same items at Woolworths or Spar. Either way, I’m personally willing to pay a bit more for the privilege of shopping at the Refillery.

Final note: There is a really nice coffee shop next door to the Refillery, which is in the process of changing ownership and doesn’t have a new name yet. But I went in there yesterday and the coffee is fantastic. Highly recommend.

Coffee shop next to the Refillery
The unnamed coffee shop.
Looking into the Refillery from the coffee shop
Looking into the Refillery from the coffee shop.

Do yourself (and the planet) a favor and check out the Refillery nearest you. The locations are listed here. The Linden address is 65 7th Street in the Denmyr Court building.


  1. AutumnAshbough

    That’s fantastic! I always bring my own shopping bags, but for bulk items I have to use store’s plastic bags. How great would it be to bring my own jars?

    • 2summers

      It’s so wonderful. I feel like your LA neighborhood should have one of these!

  2. Maarten

    I love this idea and was quite happy that there was a kind of refillerie at 27Boxes but it lokks it has left

    • 2summers

      Ahhhhh, that’s too bad.

  3. dizzylexa

    I fell in love with the one in Hyde Park and so wish there was one closer to home. What I really liked about it is I needed some almond flour for a recipe I wanted to make, it’s pretty pricey and the packs had more than I needed but at the Refillery I could buy the exact amount I needed – bonus.

    • 2summers

      That is also a huge bonus — that you can buy any quantity you want. Hopefully coming soon to Eastgate or Bedfordview!

  4. Justin

    WOW!! This looks amazing Heather.

  5. oliverrani

    Insightful article! Every little makes a difference to the world. Will learn more about refillery!

  6. Gina

    I love that The Refillery has now opened so close to home, I could never quite bring myself to go to the Cedar Square one but now Linden has made it so much easier. I use their cleaning products because I am trying to be aware of the chemicals I use that goes into the environment and I have dogs who do lick floors on occasion 🙂
    It is great that it is so easy to just bring your own containers and as you said, the ladies at the store are just fabulous! What I also learnt is that you can get stickers for the cleaning products which have the name, ingredients and usage instructions for your containers so you can keep reusing the same ones and everyone in the household can see what the stuff is and how to use it.
    Thanks for an awesome blog about a great store I am happy to support.

    • 2summers

      Thanks Gina! Ditto to all that.

  7. Anneliese Cianfanelli

    hello Heather, thank you so much for this information which will be very useful. Already spoke to Marius at the Hyde Park Store to make sure I don’t miss it when next I am there, which is very often. Thank you for doing all this valuable research, Best wishes

    • 2summers

      Ahhh, I’m so happy to hear that! You’ll love it.


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