You’ve been great, but I’m letting you go now.

John Rbeiz
3 min readMay 17, 2020

May 15th.

I still think you’re awesome, but it’s better this way…That’s the kind of day I’m having today.

“But just last week, things seemed to be going strong! Are you feeling okay? What happened?” —Long story short, she’s a great idea, we got attached very quickly during quarantine but in the real world there’s, no future for us. It’s hard to let her go, she’s my idea after all, but I’ve come to accept that she came into my life for a reason: to inspire me and show me an opportunity. Now I have to let her go.

Replenish — this is how I named my short-lived business — together we had a vision, we wanted to help people reduce their single-use plastic waste. We had those grand ideas, let’s start an online ‘plastic-free’ grocery store that allows people to seamlessly get their groceries delivered package-free or in return-able containers. We thought our fresh produce would be sourced locally to reduce food miles. We also thought we would create an app-based shopping experience that revolutionises the way people do groceries. People we interviewed loved our ideas. Over 100 shoppers we interviewed and surveyed asked to be updated with the development of the business.

Alas, this morning, for the last time, I contemplated the many iterations and models that I built for Replenish; and once this moment was over, I put it all in a folder and dragged it into my archives.

The real reason

In the midst of it, it seemed like we had a few issues. Four weeks into the project the first roadblocks started to appear, and as they say when it rains it pours. First, the Australian Food Law considered my system of return-able containers to be not compliant. In the background COVID-19 was changing our food system faster than ever. On another hand, industry experts were warning me about the challenges of scaling a food business in Australia.

In retrospect, I can see clearly that what seemed to be a combination of reasons, was a single one; with Replenish I got busy tackling a monster that wasn’t directly standing between me and my goal:

  1. I was starting a grocery store; and
  2. I was creating a system of return-able containers

And while starting a plastic-free grocery store certainly reduces the amount of single-use plastics that consumers end up with, operating a grocery store is not really what I want to be doing — nor is it the only way to reduce single-use plastic. In fact, out of the two, the system of return-able containers is the one solving the problem.

What now…

Just like any relationship that you officialise, it’s hard to announce that it is over, especially when it’s only been a few weeks. This is how I felt the past few days. I felt responsible of making Replenish work to avoid feeling failure, but luckily my past experiences had me pick-up on this behaviour fast enough to move me from confusion and rumination to acceptance and reorganisation.

The problem I am resolving remains the same: It is very difficult and inconvenient to reduce our single-use plastic waste.

People we interviewed almost unanimously said that inconvenience was the main barrier that prevented them from shifting to more sustainable purchasing habits. And a large majority also admitted that although they are aware of environmental issues, it is unlikely that they would change their shopping habits drastically to save the planet.

This made me think, what if, the answer to the problem laid within Replenish itself? Could it possibly be a rental container program for the food industry and their eco-conscious customers? I don’t have the answer yet but I’ll be going back to the sketchbook on Monday.



John Rbeiz

Passionate about growth, sustainability and community development.