The Environmental Journal of Southern Appalachia

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KnoxFill’ Michaela BarnettKnoxFill founder Dr. Michaela Barnett was recently featured on WUOT to address trash and sustainability.  KnoxFill

This article was originally published on WUOT in a collaboration with students from the University of Tennessee's Department of Journalism and Media

Two Knoxville-based startups are tackling the challenges of waste and sustainability, one household at a time

KnoxFill, founded by Dr. Michaela Barnett, is the city’s only refillery, and provides household and food products, ranging from shampoo and laundry detergent to coffee and tea.

Vitriform3D, a 3D printer technology focused on using glass waste and converting it into architectural building products, was founded by Alex Stiles, PhD and Dustin Gilmer, PhD.

Both businesses are filling a void left by a lack of state and local policies to address sustainability issues, and by the logistics challenges of recycling. “We know from the science that recycling can be part of a sustainable waste management program, but it really comes after trying to reduce source waste,” Barnett said. “Recycling really should be a last resort.”

Vitriform3D offers consumers the chance to recycle, and know that their recyclables are also being re-used. Knoxville has long lacked easy glass recycling capabilities; currently, residents have to transport their own glass to one of five repositories around the city. “We’re launching a service we call Fourth & Glass, Stiles said. “That is Knoxville’s first dedicated glass only recycling program. We do have the equipment to handle glass and turn it into new products.”

Published in News

IMG 2216Multiple household and personal items such as detergent, shampoo and even toothpaste can be refilled at KnoxFill, which now has a storefront at 3211 South Haven Road in Knoxville.  Photo courtesy Michaela Barnett

Glass jars aren’t just for moonshine anymore 

KNOXVILLE The city now has a store where walk-in customers can buy refillable household products. 

“Zero waste” is commonly heard around concerts, festivals and Earth Day events, but now it is easier to make it a daily priority.  

KnoxFill opened a 1,600-square-foot store April 8 in South Knoxville at 3211 South Haven Road.

The company uses reusable glass containers for purchasing common household goods such as shampoo and detergent, like the way you might buy bulk foods. Hellbender Press previously reported on this business. 

Their products are eco-sourced. The idea is if a container is not reused, it will either be landfilled, incinerated, end up as litter, or recycled, which has its own set of issues. That’s on the back side of the waste stream. Refillable glass containers also combat pollution and waste on the front side by eliminating the petrochemicals needed to produce and ship all the plastic containers needed for consumer products in the first place.  

Prior to opening her store, owner Michaela Barnett provided her goods and services via the “milkman” method. She would refill the bottles at home and then deliver them to her customers.  

“The milkman system was very labor intensive; we could never have the impact and scale we now have without a brick-and-mortar store,” she said.

Published in News

Michaela BarnettMichaela Barnett is the founder and owner of KnoxFill. She is seen here outside her South Knoxville home-based business in this submitted photo.

KnoxFill offers Knoxville home delivery and pickup of sustainably sourced personal-care products in refillable containers

Michaela Barnett has traveled the world, is an accomplished science writer and editor and is closing in on a doctorate from the University of Virginia.

Now she’s a business owner with a focus on sustainability and waste reduction and that has proven to be her true raison d’etre. She gets out of bed with joyous purpose and determination. And she sings to start her day.

“My husband says it’s like living with this annoying Disney character,” she said with a light laugh.   

“I’ve got so much energy and joy and excitement,” said Barnett, who launched KnoxFill in March after eight months of research and preparation and works out of her home to fill multiple orders each day.

KnoxFill offers sustainably sourced personal-care items, detergents and other everyday household products in reusable glass containers for pickup or delivery. The product line includes shampoo, conditioner, body wash, lotions, laundry detergent, and dishwashing and castile soap. Barnett even offers safety razors, bamboo toothbrushes and refillable toothpaste “bites.”

Published in Earth