Mobile Refill Station:

Mobile Refill Service Design for Chinese Residents

Project Background


In November 2012, Juccce partnered with ARK to design a mobile refill station and ecosystem offering detergent-refill service to consumers to reduce packaging waste and plastic-bottle pollution through the idea of reusing packing within the FMCG market. In the research step, we search some delivery service, Such as water delivery and Coca-cola delivery. and some examples of reuse, recycle and refill services in China. Such as oil refill, milk refill, soap refill… The outcome is more than just designing the Refill Cart. The Refill Cart is only one part of a larger system, therefore we need to consider the other components that provide the infrastructure and define the experience. So we also explore each of the 5 key components in refill service to understand each components’ unique needs and then step back and see how they work together. 

ARK also face challenges in this refill service, such as how to let residents know our refill service and mobile refill cart? How to get trust from consumer and so on…, so we interview people about their basic info, buying habit, household route, use habit, recycle and refill, and synthesis is to find the key insights and opportunities. Then we present refill service with a number of scenarios to provide not just an idea but an experience to the client and try to list different types of service. Finally, we list the criterion of refill car through the researches above.

The 5 Key Components

In our initial ideation, we explore each of the 5 key components to understand each components, unique needs and then step back and see how they work together. It is a holistic approach to make sure that the whole Refill System works in harmony. 

Distributor                                   Refill Station                             Communication                               Station Owner                                  Customer   

What is the most effective way to create the distribution for the Refill system in China?

How will the Refill Cart work and adapt to the functional needs it has to fulfill? 

Which methods are there to communicate with the customers and the neighborhood?

Who is the owner? Individuals, supermarkets or the product makers themselves?

What would be the trigger in motivating people to use a Refill type of service?

Refill Station Criteria

For every design challenge, we create a list of criteria to help guide the direction and highlight any issues, needs, goals that the design must meet. Our initial list focuses on three main categories, Business, Consumer and Refill Cart


Counterfeit products are a persistent problem in China and the key challenge to the success of the Refill concept.


Supports retail channels

The Refill System needs to work with existing retail channels rather than create a new one.


Social Entrepreneurship

Sustainability is broader than just the environment and business, it must include people as well.


Like most thing in life, we appreciate convenience as a way to make life easier



If we can reduce waste, we can reduce price and that is always valued.



This must be seen as part of a greater system to adapt to the lifestyle, daily life needs, and activities.

Low energy

A holistic sustainable point of view must include the cart being as low energy as possible. Being electric does not always mean being green.


All year use

It works for all seasons and offers different products for each season.


Point Of Sale

It isn’t a delivery service, its a Point Of Sale and presents itself as such.

Local refill services and habits


With the perception that China simply consumes, there are examples of reuse, recycle and refill services. Fundamentally the Chinese typically don’t like to waste things and look to save money, although perception form today's increased wealth contradicts that in some way. The goal of the research is to get inspiration and insight from China local refill service system, delivery mode, and feedback of questionnaire booklet. 

Oil Refill


In cities, there are stations that allow people to refill their oil bottles or any bottle they had. Many people have such memory in childhood like: their parents asked them to refill one bottle of oil in oil station, and the owner of the oil station will refill oil by a funnel or pumping unit.

Milk Refill


An existing reuse/recycle service is milk. In many cities, milk is delivered daily. They use glass bottles which are collected, cleaned and refilled. the delivery consists of small unpowered carts which deliver milk into small lockable plastic boxes that people install near their front door.

Water Refill


When water runs out, the user calls transmitter to collect empty bottles and take it to service center to refill

Soap Refill


In more boutique stores, there are slowly more options for refilling products like soap. A western trend that is driven by that value of the product, natural ingredients and tends to be the high cost in nature.

Distributions in China 

China’s retail market compared to the west is still very diverse and evolving. From modern-trade stores like Carrefour, a growing convince store network and a very large and localized ‘Mom & Pop’ stores. In many ways reflecting the very wide income gap between low and high earners, in addition to the density and availability of space offered in high-density cities like Shanghai.

Convenience Stores

Convenience stores have recently seen major growth due to affluent consumers wanting the convenience of shopping locally but with the range of products that reflect mode-trade stores like Carrefour and others. Leading the difficult challenges for the many “Mom & Pop” stores.

Mom & Pop


Almost every expat knows about the Avocado lady because she was once the only place that you could buy Avocados. ‘Mom & Pop’ stores still dominate the retail experience especially in city centers, offering low prices, convenience, and a local face and not a brand.

Modern Trade 


The popularity of large modern-trade stores continues to grow as the affluence of the everyday person grows as well. The effect on behavior is fewer trips for grocery shopping which in part is the distance and also the increase of car ownership allowing families to carry more. 

Large Modern-trade Distribution

Modern-trade can provide the infrastructure, volume, variety, and trust.

Refill Cart Point Of Service

Refill Carts become mobile POS extending the reach of modern-trade stores.

Owners Are Local Experts

Owners provide expertise and trust in their neighborhood. 

Ideation Sketch

Redefine Chinese Collector

Collectors in China always ride a three-wheel bike and ring the bell and shout: recycle the plastic bottle, newspaper, package, waste electric and appliance etc. However, we need to redefine these collectors:


- With professional knowledge in detergent and cleaning, They can get trust by teaching people the better way cleaning  and washing


- They should be equipped promotion skills to advocate more people participate in the refill service and promote the detergent brand of Unilever 


- They should be equipped sell skills so that they can get profit from refill service and run the service more widely

Social Interaction

Provide the social skills to interact and and build trust with their customers.

Product Knowledge

Knows the best product for the best result.

Sales Technique

Provide the sales skills to support the product expertise.

Information Management

How to manage, orders, schedules and product inventory etc.

Recruit Local

Recruit from the local neighborhood, explore the exiting recycling collectors or other delivery or collection services.

Training Centre

Partner with organizations like the Renewal Centre to provide additional training and opportunities for the homeless.

Marketing and Operation

Strategy and marketing provided by the distribution and suppliers.

Become Expert 

Start Local


New Product Development

Suppliers work with Cart Owners to adapt and test new products quickly and efficiently.

The Rendering