As landfills and plastic islands increase in size every year, the need for people to adjust their daily habits to reduce the multitude of contaminants damaging our green spaces becomes so incredibly necessary. Companies of all sizes are also recognizing the importance of sustainability and zero waste policies in their own practices, but implementing these changes is not always easy, which is why small businesses like 86 Plastic are so important.

86 Plastic is a single-loop system store, meaning you can use the same containers from home to refill common household products like shampoo/conditioner, laundry detergent, dish soap, baby products, bathroom cleaner, body soaps/lotions, toothpaste, and more. Using the same plastic, glass, aluminum, or paper containers helps to reduce the amount of single-use plastic products that end up in landfills and oceans. None of the products in the store are packaged with plastic and are either Michigan based, woman-owned, locally-owned, cost-effective, or have a low emission goal.

Claire Mahler, the owner of 86 Plastic, worked as a teacher for seven years in the Birmingham school district. After the COVID-19 pandemic, Claire decided she wanted to take a gap year and try something new.

“I’ve always wanted to open this kind of store,” Claire said. “I thought now would be the time to try it.”

Claire got her lease in April of 2022 and just recently joined the Troy Chamber, wanting to get more involved in the community and get her name out there.

“So, what is 86 Plastic all about?” Mayor Baker asked. “What is the purpose behind what you do?”

“When I came here from California, I was very surprised that there was a ban on banning plastic bags. Where I came from, people were a lot more conscious about composting, what kind of products they were using, and how it was impacting the environment. I wanted to do something about the issue and educate people, so I opened 86 Plastic.”

To raise more awareness among Troy residents and surrounding communities on the damage single-use plastics can do to our environment, Claire got involved in local communities by holding clothing swaps, partnering with a local yoga studio, and creating a Green Team at her old school to teach kids about the significance of recycling.

“It’s been going well so far,” Claire said. “Where I came from in California, people were a lot more conscious about the impact they were having on the environment, from their plastic use to the types of skin products they were using. Here, it’s a little different, but Troy residents are big on not using single-use plastics, which is great.”

“Why Troy?” Mayor Baker asked. “Why not choose Birmingham, Bloomfield, Royal Oak, or somewhere else?”

“My business model fits better not being in a bigger downtown area,” Claire said. “Having to find parking and then walking to the store with multiple bottles that need to be filled can turn people off from coming. Having this location makes it easier for people to bring as many containers as they want and fill them, without the hassle of walking.”

Almost as if to demonstrate her point, during our interview, a young couple with a small child came to the store, looking to refill their dish soap and laundry detergent. After asking how they heard about Claire and her business, we learned the young family was from Shelby Township and recently discovered 86 Plastic after searching for zero-waste, refillable stores in the area. 86 Plastic was the closest one to them.

“We saw this was a new small business and we wanted to support the mission,” said the young woman. “We vacationed in Hawaii a few months ago and they had a store like this on the island and we absolutely loved it. We’re happy to have stores like that here in Michigan.”

Claire’s zero-waste passion is admirable and clearly infectious. Big things often have small beginnings and I look forward to seeing more people follow Claire’s lead for the future of a better environment.

You can follow Claire on Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. Visit her website to learn more about 86 Plastic:

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