CANTON — A new store in Canton called Empty Bin Zero Waste is trying to help reduce waste by selling reusable, recycled items to customers.
For a long time, owner Teresa Mazey didn't use reusable products herself.
"I had four stepdaughters that would come over to our house every other weekend," Mazey said. "We used paper plates cause we didn't want to wash dishes, we wanted to hang out with the kids. We used bottled water. Everything was disposable."
Now, though, she wishes she'd taught them differently. Now that her oldest stepdaughter has grandchildren, Mazey said, everything has changed.
"Seeing that little baby and what we’re leaving them and that generation to clean up after our mess does not sit well with me," Mazey said. "And so I wanted to make a change and help others do the same."
In 2015, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 10,000 tons of plastic containers and packaging ended up in landfills across the United States, to say nothing of other materials.
Mazey began making her own products in 2015.
"Ordering things online and discovering what I liked and what I didn’t like about them, I decided to make my own products, get them out to the general public so that they find out the different alternatives that are out there as well," Mazey said.
After selling her items at markets, Mazey and her husband opened a store two weeks ago on 4th Street in Canton. Just about everything in the store is recycled, reusable or both, from the tables on which items are displayed to handmade produce bags, compostable muslin coffee filters and paper towel alternatives.
"We make unpaper towels from birdseye cotton, which is what baby diapers are made of," Mazey said.
Her bestsellers include stainless steel straws and washable, reusable sandwich bags. She also sells wax wraps, which she doesn't make herself, that can be used in place of plastic wrap to cover food.
Although Mazey's store isn't open on Mondays, a curious customer stopped by to see the store on Monday afternoon.
"Everybody wants to make a difference in the world, but in your everyday life, you're like, 'What can I do?'" Brooke Bacharowski, who lives in Canton, said.
Bacharowski said she tries to use reusable items and be environmentally-friendly whenever possible.
"What you can do is you can get one less plastic bag, one less plastic bottle, one less straw," Bacharowski said. "It makes a difference and it gives people that sense of purpose."
An added bonus for Bacharowski is getting the chance to support local business.
Asked whether people could buy similar products more cheaply from online retailers, Mazey said it is true that her products are more expensive.
"That’s absolutely true, but the shipping and the way that those companies do business doesn’t really align with what we would like the future to be," Mazey said. "You will spend a little bit more money here, but you’re supporting local and we’re not shipping items."
She added that supporting local business is important to her, as is avoiding "wasteful packaging" from online retailers.
"You buy something from some online retailers, it’s in a box in a box in a box," Mazey said. "Here, you bring your own containers. We don’t have bags. Bring your own bags. And you’re shopping zero-waste and buying zero-waste as well."
Although the store has only been open for two weeks, Mazey said she has gotten a lot of positive feedback from customers, as well as from people at markets where she sells her products.
"In Cleveland, Akron, Canton," Mazey said. "We’ve gone as far as North Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania, just to get the word out, and the response that we have gotten is amazing. People come into our booth and thank us. Young kids are coming in, they’re like, 'Oh my gosh, you’re so awesome.' So it’s very uplifting. We feel very proud of what we’ve done and proud of Ohio for being on board with this as well."