BEST PRACTICES: ZERO WASTE SOFIA

Restoring the public fountains in Bulgaria. That’s one of the main goals of Zero Waste Sofia. Their founder, corporate communications professional Simona Stiliyanova wants to create a movement and help everyone in Bulgaria to reduce their waste, from packaging to wardrobe. And she pays special attention to public fountains. We were really curious about this initiative, so we picked up the phone. 

INTERVIEW WITH SIMONA STILIYANOVA (S)

Why did you start Zero Waste Sofia?

S: Adopting a ‘zero waste lifestyle’ is something many of us dream about, but struggle to actually do it. Where do you even start? I managed to reduce my waste by about 60% and I wanted to document my successful and unsuccessful attempts to lead a more sustainable lifestyle, and that’s how Zero Waste Sofia was born. I want to show that living a little more “green” does not necessarily mean mixing up recipes with 400 exotic ingredients all day long. On the contrary – by implementing various small changes you can simplify your life and even save money and earn more time for yourself and your loved ones.

Can you tell us more about the specific ‘fountain project’?

S: Fountains of Bulgaria enables active people to stop using disposable plastic bottles and save money by giving them a map of all sources of free tap water near them. I am working to embed information about its quality, feedback for broken fountains and other initiatives too.

CAN YOU DRINK TAP WATER IN BULGARIA?

So we assume, tap water in Bulgaria is potable?

S: Yes, we are fortunate to live close to thousands of free sources of high quality drinking water. In Bulgaria, there is an old tradition for people to build drinking fountains. As a result of it, there are nearly 7,000 of them all over the country. However, nowadays our modern society is rapidly adopting the “throwaway” culture, putting the tradition on the shelf and sending nearly 5 million disposable plastic bottles to the landfill every day.

 I conducted a national research among 600 respondents, and found out why people use or do not use public fountains. The 3 main reasons for not using them were:

  • 89,4% of all interviewees consider that they do not have enough information about the quality of water
  • 64% do not use public fountains, because they are broken or dirty.
  • 54% do not know where to find them

That’s why I decided to go further in addition to the mapping. I partner with local civic organizations, contact municipalities to report broken fountains and encourage my readers to do so. And together with some other volunteers, we started to clean the fountains ourselves.

Oh yes, we read about that on Zero Waste Sofia. On September 14th, you joined with the Let’s clean Bulgaria together” event. Can you tell us more about this?

S: I am really happy that even it started small, it grew so quickly and was supported by many volunteers from all over the country, even two whole municipalities and bTV national television. For the clean-up we used only natural products as vinegar and baking soda. 

You already have 960 refill stations on your map. How do you add new fountains? Can bars and restaurants also sign up as a refill station?

S: I started to add fountains to the map myself. Nowadays hundreds of volunteers are helping me out by adding new fountains through the website form. Venues that provide tap/filtered water and welcome people to fill their water bottle for free can also join. You can already find some restaurants on the map.

FUNDING & SUPPORT FOR THE PROJECT

Do you get any financial support to do all this work?

S: No. Currently the project is ran without funding by volunteering efforts in our spare time. The project is working without a budget as a Google map since 2018 and it has already gained ambassadors, volunteers and public support, including national TV and other media features. To achieve higher impact and scale our solution we need to invest in a fully functional digital platform, water sampling and analysis and a strong awareness campaign. This year “Fountains of Bulgaria” even was ranked among 30 semi-finalists from over 500 projects across Europe challenging plastic waste in the European social innovation competition. As a part of it we visited a Social Innovation Academy in Turin where I attended many really useful workshops and met amazing people from all over Europe. Integral part of the team were my partner, who is also supporting me a lot with the project and my (then 2 months old) baby, who travels everywhere with me. :)) Thanks to the competition we also met our amazing coach, who is still supporting me with the project.

Last question: what is your ultimate goal? 

S: I want to start a national movement of tap water users and ambassadors – bringing tap water its credibility and public fountains back to life. A change in consumers’ mindsets and behaviour towards purchasing bottled water (in regions where water is drinkable). Hopefully we will achieve a system change – municipalities investing in the development of a strong public fountains infrastructure, instead of encouraging the usage of more single-use plastic bottles and looking for ways to recycle them. And of course the ultimate – legislation change – plastic bottles bans at key public places. 

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The website Zero Waste Sofia is in Bulgarian (yes with a Cyrillic alphabet!), but that doesn’t stop us from being big fans (thank you Google Translate!). In our opinion, Simona is a true hero, and a talented photographer too. Check out the Zero Waste Sofia Instagram, and get inspired!

Do you have tips for Simona how she can grow the refill network in Bulgaria? Or do you want to become a volunteer or project partner? Please contact Simona at Simona@zerowastesofia.com.

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PUBLIEK WATER: ‘LOWERING THE TRESHOLD FOR A REFILL’

“Lowering the threshold to ask for a refill”. That’s the main goal of Publiek Water (translated as ‘Public Water’), a new initiative founded by 5 colleagues in Haren, the Netherlands. The team combines this national refill project with their regular job for advertising agency ‘Publiek’. We spoke with project manager Erik Jaap Dijk.

Publiek Water Team at refill station 'Schoenenzaken'

INTERVIEW WITH ERIK JAAP DIJK (E), PUBLIEK WATER

Publiek Water, the name of your project is linked to your company’s name. It also suggests you consider refilling to be a public right. Is that right?

E: Yes. The name is even part of the philosophy behind the name of our advertising agency. Publiek Water originated from the desire to do something visible for the largest public; worldwide. Tap water quality in the Netherlands is incredible. And there are many good refillable bottle designs. But the threshold to ask for a water refill is high. People are ashamed to ask for it. With Publiek Water, we want to lower this threshold.

That’s true. We noticed that tresholds to refill can be really high for some people indeed. How can new venues sign up?

E: We approach local businesses (shops, restaurants, bars etc.) personally/by mail and ask if they want to become a refill station. 9 out of 10 say yes. We add them to the map on our website and provide them with a window sticker, something we consider to be really important. The venues can choose to make donation to Publiek Water. So far, 341 venues have joined.

Interesting that you have a donation-based system! How does that work out?

E: About 50% of the participating venues donate. Those who donate usually pay €3,50 (the ‘cost-price’ = printing costs for the stickers + mail delivery service), but every now and then we receive bigger donations, €20,- or €50,- for example.

Cool. I hope your example will motivate other refill initiatives worldwide. What are your next steps?

E: We want to start new campaigns to raise awareness on the issue of plastic waste. Next month, we’ll be standing on a fair with our own stand, made from single-use plastic bottles. Secondly, we want to prepare our project for the long-term. It starts to get more time consuming and is not yet economically viable. Therefore we’re in the process of turning Publiek Water into a not-for-profit organisation.

That makes sense. Last question: what is your ultimate goal? 

E: When 80% of the people in the Netherlands dare to asks for a refill, our work is done!

Thanks a lot Erik, we appreciate your work and wish you good luck.

READ MORE

Check out the Publiek Water website (in Dutch). Interested to learn more about refilling in the Netherlands? Read our previous blog: Public drinking fountains in the Netherlands.

Images: Publiek Water

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REFILL APP UPDATED (REFILL.ORG.UK)

The Refill app has been updated! Over the past couple of months, the Refill team (Refill.org.uk) has worked hard to make some adjustments to their app. Adding new refill stations has never been this easy. Over 20,000 refill stations are listed to the app, from London to Santiago de Chile. Will you add the next one?

HOW DO I ADD A NEW REFILL STATION?

Any businesses with a publicly accessible tap, that welcomes thirsty refillers, can be added as refill station. By signing up as a refill station you help to keep your area hydrated and free of plastic pollution. You can also add public fountains to the app. How it works:

  1. Download the Refill app
  2. Create a free profile
  3. Follow the video instructions:
Instruction video How to add stations to the Refill app – made by Refill

READ MORE

Curious to learn more about Refill? Read our interview with Gus Hoyt.

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WATER KIOSKS & REFILL STATIONS IN AFRICA

Last week, the recent water crisis in Harare hit the news. Journalists report Zimbabwe’s capital has one week’s supply of clean water left. A very undesired situation, which we hope to be solved soon. Luckily, we also received positive messages from the African continent: The ITF-International Transformation Foundation is constructing new water kiosks and refill stations in Kenya and Rwanda. We asked 5 questions to Venuste Kubwimana, Secretary General at ITF.

INTERVIEW WITH VENUSTE (VENU) KUBWIMANA, ITF

1.      Can you tell us a bit about drinking water in your country?

In sub Saharan Africa access to safe drinking water is one of the main challenges to so many people. In 2013 ITF members worked together in their respective countries research project on “sustainable clean drinking water system”. The main insight gained was, all communities wished on an improved water system.

Most rural/poor communities do not have a working tap water system at all, prompting school-going children and women to walk very long distances to secure water from neighbouring communities’ wells/ rivers which is also dirty.

2.      How did you start this refill campaign?

Ironically in urban areas, the single use of plastic water bottles is common, since it is the only source of clean drinking water for those who can afford, but on the other hand it promotes littering within the cities.

That’s how our campaign with Join the Pipe started. With “a water kiosk at school” as the solution for rural/poor communities and “Public drinking tap water/refill stations” for urban areas.

Image: A Water Kiosk at School
Image: Youth Solutions Report 2019

3..      What is your role in this project? 

As ITF founder and Secretary General I’m ultimately responsible of the project. ITF is an international youth-led non-profit organization providing youth educational and self-development programs encompassing leadership and entrepreneurship to harness creativity for a youth system that provide jobs, offers security, opens opportunities to grow and contributes to the development of communities.

4. How many people have you reached so far?

Thus far we have built 12 water kiosks in community-based schools across Kenya and Rwanda providing clean drinking tap water and sanitation to 6541 students and 120358 community residents.  Furthermore, the water bottle bikes are still being used.

Image: Join the Pipe

 5.       Really cool. Last question! Do you have tips how people in Africa can reduce the amount of single-use-plastic bottles?

I think companies that sell water and sodas are the biggest distributors of single use plastic bottles.  It’s very evident in our drainage systems when it floods it is plastic bottles from these companies that float all over. If these companies adopted multi-use plastic bottles then that would reduce the pollution or they could have a recycle program for these bottles.

Otherwise it is up to us consumers to boycott these companies and their single use plastic as now although not many as needed there are option/alternative for tap water refill stations that promote usage of multi-use bottles.

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Venuste Kubwimana is an award-winning youth activist and social entrepreneur based in Rwanda and Kenya. Do you want to get to know Venuste? Check out his website.

Find more pictures on facebook.

Do you have tips or questions for Venuste? Leave your comment behind!

 

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5X PLASTIC FREE GUIDES

This month marks the 5th edition of the Plastic Diet Challenge in the Netherlands. Each week, we reveive tips and tricks how to avoid and reduce single-use plastics. Refilling your water bottle is one step, but there are many other products to tackle. Just look at your fridge or cosmetics. We love plastic-free tips & tricks. In today’s blog, we highlight a couple of interesting platforms and guides. 

1. TRAVEL WITHOUT PLASTIC

The Travel Without Plastic founder Jo Hendricx and her team created ‘Let’s Reduce Single-Use‘, a Toolkit to help hotels and accommodation providers reduce or eliminate single-use plastics and providing practical, affordable recommendations. Besides the toolkit, they offer a “Plastic Reduction Guide” (avaliable as free downloadable version, or €79,- for the complete guide), workshops and personalised support. Furthermore Travel Without Plastic has inspiring blogs and reports.

Travel Without Plastic

​ 2. HET ZERO WASTE PROJECT

Dutch Sisters Nicky and Jesse Kroon live a zero-waste lifestyle. Step by step they managed to eliminate their waste stream, using the 5R-principle: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot. They wrote the practical book “Het Zero Waste Project” (in Dutch), opened their own sustainable lifestyle store called SMIR, maintain a blog, and keep an online overview of ‘bulk stores‘ in the Netherlands.

Het Zero Waste Project

3. SLO ACTIVE

This luxury swim wear brand recently updated their guide, titled Plastic Pollution: Single-Use Plastic Impact on our Oceans. It’s comprehensive, intensely detailing the facts and figures of plastic pollution, the impact on our oceans and marine life. The brand is inspired by the slow movement.

4. BETTER PLACES

Better Places is a sustainable travel agency. Practical tips and tricks how to avoid plastics, eat vegetarian and susainable hotels can be found on their website for each country in their portfolio (in Dutch).

Image: Better Places

5. MYPLASTICFREELIFE.COM

100 steps to a plastic-free life. Wow! This inspiring woman, Beth Terry, has been blogging for more than ten years and researching plastic-free alternatives (see her ongoing Plastic-Free Guide). She also enjoys reviewing alternative products from ethical companies. 

What is your favourite plastic free source?

There are hundreds of cool plastic free tips & tricks guides and zero-waste guru’s. We picked these 5 platforms, because we like them (we don’t receive commissions!). Please note we did not try to make a complete overview. Do you have another favourite plastic-free guide or guru? Leave your comment below. 

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REFILL AMBASSADORS WINS DESIGNSCAPES’ 1ST OPEN CALL

Refill Ambassadors has won the first round DESIGNSCAPES Open Call. Great news! The price is a €5.000 reward, and a great convidence boost. Now more than ever, we want our project Refill Ambassadors to become a success. Because we believe refilling your bottle becomes the norm once water refill points are trustworthy, widely available and easy to find.

ABOUT DESIGNSCAPES

DESIGNSCAPES (Building Capacity for Design-enabled Innovation in Urban Environments) is a H2020 European project approved under the topic CO-CREATION-02-2016- User-driven innovation: value creation through design-enabled innovation.

The overarching aim of the DESIGNSCAPES project is to exploit the generative potential of urban environments in the highest possible number of European Cities to encourage the uptake and further enhancement and up scaling of Design-enabled Innovations by existing enterprises, start-up companies, public authorities and agencies, and other urban stakeholders.

WHAT WE DID

For this DESIGNSCAPES feasibility study, we have been:

  1. Identifying the main stakeholders and how they are related.
  2. Gaining insights in attitudes towards refilling, barriers and stimulations.
  3. Conducting a pilot with 5 business to create water refill stations.
  4. Understanding the role of design in “consumer refill behaviour”.
  5. Putting existing refill points in Amsterdam on the map.

RESEARCH CONDUCTED

The research conducted was a combination of literature analysis, expert interviews, consumer research, and a pilot. 16 expert interviews were conducted with different organisations already committed to reducing single-use plastics. A creative session was organised with six Dutch changemakers. Mindmaps were created upon thoughts and notions related to the main relevant stakeholders: users, refill station owners, water suppliers and refill app makers. To better illustrate different consumer types four persona were used.

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COMING UP: NATIONAL REFILL DAY

On June 19th the second edition of National Refill Day will take place. The awareness campaign was invented by not for profit organisation City to Sea to encourage people to carry a reusable water bottle and refill on the go.

National Refill Day in the Netherlands

Refill Ambassadors will be joining National Refill Day and spread the #Refillution in the Netherlands. On June 19th free refills will be provided in Amsterdam, and everyone will be invited to share their refill experiences with us. To get involved in the chat around this day online use the hashtag #NationalRefillDay #PlasticFree #Refillution. More information is coming soon!

Plastic bottles consumption in the Netherlands

According to the Rijksoverheid, 1.4 billion plastic bottles are being used annually in the Netherlands, equivalent to more than 80 plastic bottles per person per year. Help! 750.000.000 of these bottles are small plastic bottles. There is no deposit on small plastic bottles.

Image on top: Refill.org.uk

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REFILLNZ: GET YOUR TAP ON THE MAP

RefillNZ (New Zealand) is the latest asset to the global refill infrastructure. Good news for the kiwis and tourists. Founded seven months ago in Wellington, RefillNZ has created over 130 refill stations in Wellington with nearly 300 throughout NZ. And this is just the beginning. Their goal: to prevent single use plastic pollution from water bottles at source. We had a chat with Jill Ford, founder of RefillNZ.

INTERVIEW WITH JILL FORD AND REFILL AMBASSADORS

Is tap water in New Zealand potable?

Tap water in NZ is free, clean, refreshing so there’s no need to buy bottled water. Still, kiwis use 168 plastic bottles each year, of which just 1/3 are recycled. That means 526 million water bottles are thrown away. Some tourists do not know you can drink tap water or they are not used to it.

Why did you start RefillNZ?

I do free diving, and noticed wherever you go there is rubbish in the water. So actually because of the sea I started this initiative. I have worked for CitytoSea in Bristol so I already knew about Refill.

How does RefillNZ work?

Our slogan is: Tap water is the drink of choice. We are asking cafes, bars, museums, to welcome people in to refill their water bottle – for free! The venues have a sticker in their window – alerting passers-by that they’re welcome to come on in and fill up their bottle. The interactive location-based map enables users to find a Refill station easily.

You just started, where are you standing right now?

We have grown from 1 to nearly 300 refill stations in six months. We founded a group of volunteers, they help us out to create new refill stations. We also got support from other small organisations.

What are the difficulties?

A big challenge is to get finance. There is interest from health organisations, because they want to combat the obesity epidemic.

Another difficulty involves mapping the refill stations. They have tried a few systems and now have a good map with search functionality. In the near future they want to add all refill stations to one or two leading refill apps, like RefillMyBottle and Refill.

Do you have tips for travellers how to reduce plastics?

I am a cycle advocate so I drink plenty of water! When I travel in other countries where tap water is non-potable, I bring sterilising tables and a camel pak (water bladder in my back pack), sterilise water from the tap over night and am ready to go in the morning.  My water bladder holds 2 litres of water.

HELP REFILLNZ GROW 

Thank you Jill, it was great talking to you! Being an action woman, experienced marketeer, campaigner and fundraiser, Jill really is a Jack of all trades, who is passionate about making a difference. We wish Jill and her team lots of luck and hope to meet her soon during her next cycle trip in Holland.

Do you want to create a refill station in New Zealand? Visit https://refillnz.org.nz to put your station on the map.

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WATER FILTER: TESTING THE TAPP 2

Can a simple and cheap water filter be the solution for people to switch to tap water? We tested the TAPP 2 Click during our research trip in Andalusia.

WHAT KIND OF WATER FILTER IS THE TAPP 2?

The TAPP 2 Click is a biodegradable water filter (Activated Carbon Block, 1-2 microns) that you connect directly to the faucet. It strongly reduces bad taste, chlorine, lead, microplastics and a wide range of other contaminants (see detailed description). By using a switch you can choose between filtered water and regular tap water.

The filter works as a kind of printer: the cartridge has to be replaced every three months (or sooner, once you’ve reached >1500 Litres). It is cheap: €89,- for the first year (device + 4 cartridges) and €60,-/year afterwards (4 cartridges).

With a green button on top one can activate a Bluetooth connection and connect the product to the ‘TAPP app’. In the app you can see how many plastic bottles you have saved, and it gives a reminder when to change the cartridge.

THE EXPERIMENT

The TAPP 2 Click was tested in the Lemon Garden Hostel in Seville and Cádiz Inn Backpackers Hostel. A short written explanation – in English and Spanish – was added on how to use the filter.

We observed how people used the filter and asked 50 people about their opinions:

  • In both hostels, we managed to connect the TAPP 2 to the kitchen faucet in only one minute. The product could not be attached to the tiny bathroom faucets.
  • Overall responses were very positive. 45 preferred the taste of filtered water, 4 people could not really tell the difference, and 1 person preferred the taste of unfiltered tap water.
  • About 1/3 stated the filtered water resembled the taste of mountain water.
  • Some participants were confused about the button on top (made to activate Bluetooth connection). They were pressing the button in an attempt to get filtered water, instead of using the switch on the side.
  • Some participants opened the tap too far, causing the water to flow too quickly though the filter (with unfiltered water this is not a problem).

OUR CONCLUSION

We also tried the TAPP 2 Click ourselves and really liked the taste of filtered water. Even though tap water in Cádiz and Seville is relatively good, we could clearly smell and taste the difference. We think the TAPP 2 is a great product in areas where tap water is potable yet not very tasty. When used intensively it also saves money on plastic bottles.

The product is very simple, but a little explanation is desired. Therefore we feel that the TAPP 2 Click is best used in households, small bars, cafés, AirBnB’s and smaller hotels/B&B’s. But not in places where users randomly walk in or out.

GET YOUR OWN TAPP 2

Excited? The TAPP 2 Click has been developed by TAPP Water, a young startup based in Barcelona. Get yourself a nice present and order the TAPP 2. With the coupon code ‘refillambassadors‘ you get €5,- discount on your order at TAPP (apply this code in the first step of the check-out).

Happy new year, happy refilling!

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DOWNLOAD THE REFILLMYBOTTLE APP

Are you travelling to or living in South-East Asia? Download the new  RefillMyBottle app to locate the closest water refill point, so you don’t have to buy single-use plastic water bottles anymore. RefillMyBottle replaces the Refill Bali app, with new functionalities and more refill stations.

ABOUT THE APP

Based on your GPS location, the app locates the nearest water Refill Station and gives you directions. The app shows over 900 Refill Stations in more than 9 countries, and the database is growing fast. More than 650 new stations were added in 2018 and RefillMyBottle was officially launched in Vietnam and Laos.

REFILLMYBOTTLE APP FUNCTIONALITIES:

  • Find the nearest water refill point. Refill Stations provide safe water refills, for free or for a small fee. Bring your empty bottle and a smile!
  • Help the community to grow. List new stations in the app, so others can find these refill points.
  • Track your impact how many plastic bottles you have saved
  • Check if you are drinking enough water (how useful!)

Congratulations to the RefillMyBottle team for launching the new app and growing the community!

LEARN MORE

Read our interview with Christine Go, Project Manager at RefillMyBottle. And download the free RefillMyBottle app, available for Android and iOS.

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COMING UP: TRIP TO SPAIN

We’re thrilled to announce our upcoming trip to Andalucia, Spain! Research will be conducted from mid-November to mid-December and includes the cities Malaga, Granada, Cordoba and Sevilla. The goal of this trip is to analyse existing water refill infrastructures, future challenges and opportunities.

REFILL STATION PILOT

Besides our research we we will approach eco-friendly businesses: ho(s)tels, shops, cafés, restaurants and tour operators to conduct a pilot. This means they become a refill station for a couple of weeks. They will offer water refills to customers and/or passengers, for free or for a small fee. Hereby they help to save single-use plastics. We will add the venue to two refill apps (Refill and Tap) and help them with in-store communication. And hopefully they want to continue after the pilot ends.

This will be an interesting opportunity for venues to reduce their footprint, as well as engage with the community and attract new customers. 

     

IS TAP WATER IN SPAIN SAFE TO DRINK?

Nowadays, 99,5% of tap water in Spain is safe to drink. However, bottled water consumption in Spain has grown to around 6-8 billion plastic bottles in 2017. Most people do not like tap water due to its chlorine taste. We will tackle this problem by using the TAPP2 water filter to improve the taste of tap water. This is the World’s First Biodegradable Smart Water Filter.

HELP US SPREAD THE #REFILLUTION IN SPAIN

Do you know a place in Sevilla, Granada or Malaga or surrounding areas that we can approach for a pilot to become a water refill station? Please send us a message. We are looking for eco-friendly:

  • shops
  • tour operators
  • hotels, hostels
  • bars, cafés, restaurants
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PUBLIC DRINKING FOUNTAINS IN NL

In the Netherlands there are more than one thousand public drinking fountains. The water from these fountains is safe, tasty and free. Especially in  Amsterdam there are many fountains, but still they can be hard to spot. It’s like searching for an ATM machine: when you really need them, you cannot find any. We have a solution: Drinkwaterkaart.nl.

WHERE ARE PUBLIC DRINKING FOUNTAINS IN THE NETHERLANDS? 

Open the map Drinkwaterkaart.nl on your phone or computer to locate all public water fountains in the Netherlands. Refill your bottle during your citytrip, walk in the dunes or weekly workout. The website (in Dutch) also displays free “pee-places” and “free-swimming-spots”. The map works with user-feedback: you can suggest new water fountains through the website.

DRINKING WATER SUPPLIERS IN THE NETHERLANDS

Within the Netherlands, drinking water is supplied by ten different public water system companies. These companies facilitate and maintain the public drinking fountains. For example Waternet provides the water fountains in the Amsterdam region, Evides in Rotterdam, etc. Sometimes this is done in collaboration with organisations like Join the Pipe. Luckily, you can use Drinkwaterkaart.nl for an overview of all public tap points.

Have a happy refill!

P.S. Curious about refill points outside in other countries? Read our blog on Refill Apps.

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YOUR BBF: BEST BOTTLE FOREVER

Have you already found your BBF? No, we are not talking about your Best Friend Forever. We are talking about your Best Bottle Forever, or in short BBF. In this blog we explain you all the essentials on reusable bottles.

WHY DO I NEED A BBF?

First of all, we think it is much nicer to drink from a well-designed bottle than a shitty PET bottle. Some reusable bottles can keep the water hot or cool for hours. It also saves you money. Refilling is often free or at least a lot cheaper than buying new single-use plastic water bottles. Last but not least, it’s better for the planet.

WHAT IS THE FOOTPRINT OF A REUSABLE BOTTLE?

Many people ask themselves the question: What is better for the environment, to drink from a mug or use disposable cups? According to Plasticdieet, after 16 uses your mug becomes more sustainable (including washing your mug in between). The same principle works with water bottles.

Less resource are needed to produce a single PET bottle (read our other blog for more background information), but a reusable bottle lasts many years. The footprint of your BBF is not easy to determine, as it depends on the material, production, usage and finally disposal. A life-cycle analysis conducted by Simon Lockrey resulted in favour for durable plastic bottles over steel and aluminium. This was mainly due to the high energy use needed to produce steel aand alumimium.

Compared to single-use plastics, glass, bamboo, stainless steel and aluminium bottles are all seen as sustainable alternatives. When dividing over its lifetime, the associated greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption and solid waste are minimised.

WHERE DO I REFILL MY BOTTLE?

Here our work as refill ambassador starts!

  • Your BBF is like a friend you always carry with you. Make it a habit to always fill her up before you go out.
  • Sitting in a café, bar or restaurant? Put up a friendly smile and ask the waiter whether you may refill your bottle. Do not feel embarrased about this, it’s a really normal thing to ask! Sometimes there is a tap or large jar available for customers (usually on the counter), and if not the staff can fill it for you behind the bar within 5 seconds.
  • Locate the nearest refill point with the help of a refill app. True, there are many apps and you need to know which one shows refill stations in your area. We try to bring these projects together, so in the future you don’t need to download ten different apps for each region.

HOW DO I CLEAN MY BOTTLE?

Like with a BFF, you need to pay love and attention to your Best Bottle Forever. Most bottle companies, like Dopper and Klean Kanteen provide cleaning instructions online. We recommend you to check these out for your brand. To make things easy, we listed some important cleaning tips:

  • You don’t need to wash your BBF after every single use, but make sure to wash it regularly. Use warm (but not boiling) water.
  • Avoid chemical dishwashing liquids, as your water can taste like it. Instead, soak your bottle in (baking) soda and (table) vinegar to remove funny smells and tastes.
  • Dry your bottle well after washing.
  • Water bottles are designed to drink water! Use a different bottle to drink soda, fruit juice or alcoholics.

 FIND YOUR BBF

Nowadays there are so many beautiful designs, it can be difficult to choose. Durable plastic bottles are lightweight, steel bottles can keep your water hot or cold, glass bottles are stylish. Think about the main purpose. Will you be using it while commuting to work, or on hiking trails? Also take into account the size of the bottle and its volume.

Once you have found your BBF, it can keep your company for years and will not let you down. So in the end, your bottle also becomes your Best Friend Forever.

Good luck and enjoy your BBF!

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WATER REFILL APPS: AN INVESTIGATION

Going on holiday? Download one of the water refill apps and discover where you can refill your water bottle on the go. We searched in the two main app stores and found 13 water refill apps and 3 online refill stations platforms. How do you know which platform to use? Refill Ambassadors is here to help you!

HOW DO WATER REFILL APPS WORK?

The apps described in these blog are all free to download, in English, and they make use of your GPS to determine distances to the nearest refill point within their database. However, these apps greatly differ in scope and approach:

    • Global vs local: most apps show refill points for only one specific city or region.
    • Public vs private: most apps show refill points in either public areas (drinking water fountains), or in venues (e.g. restaurants, bars).
    • Free vs paid refill: some apps only show free refill points, whereas others (also) feature paid ones.
    • User input: some apps allow users to manually add or suggest new refill points.
    • Branded bottles: some apps are linked to the brand’s own durable bottles.
    • Extra features: e.g. counting the number of bottles saved.

COMPARING REFILL APPS

We tested all different apps and refill map websites. Some really amazed us, others did not function very well. The following apps and online platforms show refill points for one particular city or region.

Tap shows free refill points in local businesses across the globe, mainly in Canada and the U.K. We think it has a nice lay-out and some cool extra features. Users can help Tap’s growth by suggesting new refill points.

Refill includes >12.000 free refill points in public areas and local venues across the U.K., and a couple of thousand more elsewhere in the world. Users can suggest new refill points and track how many bottles they have saved.

Give me tap! is a social enterprise that serves clean drinking water in Ghana for every bottle that is being sold. With a Give Me Tap bottle, you get free water refills in >800 stores in >150 cities, mainly in the U.K.

RefillMyBottle (former RefillBali) depicts refill stations on Indonesia and other countries across South-East Asia. Interestingly, this app also displays paid refill points. Venues can list themselves. RefillBali collaborates with the project RefillNotLandfillAsia, who also have a map of refill points on their website.

Canadian based BlueW.org shows over 27.000 free refill stations on its website, mainly across Canada. Refill stations include public and private tap points. The map can be easily accessed through your mobile.

Water for free promotes the refilling culture across Hongkong. It features free refill points in public areas and local venues. Users can suggest new refill points, add picture and opening hours.

Reefill shows stations in local businesses around NYC that offer free refills or a chilled, filtered refill with a membership. The app also tracks how much money and plastic bottles you’re saving.

Choose Tap features over 8000 water refill venues in public areas and local businesses, mainly in Australia. You can help them grow by adding new refill points.

Drinking Water Fountain shows public fountains in New York City and a couple of European cities. The app can be used offline, but it seems to be outdated and we did not like the user-interface.

The Dopper app shows free tap points in public areas. The app is currently under development and available for iOS only.

Find Water is based on the idea of mapping drinking water sources across the globe using Open Street Map. The app is still in its 1.0 version.

Tap Water Ljubljana shows, as the name suggests, a handful of free public fountains in Ljubljana (Slovenia). We found a similar app, NS TAP WATER for the city of Novi Sad, Serbia.

Find Drink Water shows free public fountains around Amsterdam, Leiden and The Hague, the Netherlands. Some public fountains are missing. A (in our opinion better) map with all public fountains in the Netherlands can be found here.

REFILL AMBASSADORS X ?

Refill Ambassadors wants you to find water refill points as easy as possible. Wherever you are. Without the need to download 10 different apps. We do not want to reinvent the wheel by building another app to locate your nearest refill point. We rather want to add (our) new refill points to one or more existing refill apps. Stay tuned!

OUR FUTURE VISION

It’s a good thing that multiple organisations stimulate the refill movement, yet it also complicates things. Are these apps competing with each other or can they collaborate? We believe in the latter. What if data from all these apps can be combined using API? For example, you just type “water refill” in Google Maps and it will show you all nearest locations. Similar when searching for an ATM or restaurant. We believe this will be the future step.

DO YOU KNOW MORE WATER REFILL APPS?

We did our best, but probably missed a refill app or two. Leave your comment behind, so we can update this blog.

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LIKE HANSEL AND GRETEL

Imagine you are doing a beautiful hike in the Sacred Valley, Peru. It’s sunny and you’re at high altitude. You are reminded to keep drinking a lot of water. Your bottle is almost empty. Luckily there is a small café along the path where you can buy new drinks. You pay 5 soles for a new 1L water bottle, throw your empty bottle in the trashcan and continue your quest.

Unfortunately, this is the usual way. We all need to drink water, and in some countries the only option as a tourist is to buy plastic bottles. Once empty, we throw them away and loose responsibility. It becomes someone else’s problem. Strange when you think about it.

As tourism grows, so does the waste problem. We can even trace the right walking route by searching for empty bottles, just like the fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel. Gretel’s breadcrumbs disappeared in an instance, but plastic bottles can stay intact for 450 years.

WHAT IF?

Hopefully we will soon be able to make that beautiful hike, without leaving a trace. When there are sufficient water refill points along the way, it becomes much easier. So please read again:

Imagine you are doing a beautiful hike in the Sacred Valley, Peru. It’s sunny and you’re at high altitude. You are reminded to keep drinking a lot of water. Your water bottle is almost empty. Luckily there is a small café along the path. You refill your bottle from a large tank containing purified water. You pay 4 soles for the refill and continue your quest.

SHARE YOUR STORY

Are you into hiking? What do you do to leave no trace? Tell us about it!

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IN 450 YEARS FROM NOW…

We humans nowadays live up to around 80 – 90 years. This is peanuts for plastic bottles. They need around 450 years to decompose. 450 years? That means an empty bottle disposed today could still be alive until the year 2468.

PET FOR DUMMIES

Water bottles are made from PET (polyethylene terephthalate), which is a thermoplastic polymer. PET belongs to the polyester family. Parts made from PET can be recognised by resin code number 1. The material can be found in different states: white (semi-crystalline), transparent (amorphous), or coloured (using additives). PET is very suitable for storing and conserving of beverages. Furthermore it is easy to process, widely available and cheap. It is possible to recycle PET, either by chemical or mechanical recycling.

So far, so good. What about the difficulties?

PET is a non-degradable polymer. It consists of relatively large molecules that decay very slowly. That’s why plastic bottles can survive up to 450 years. Presently, the majority of empty PET bottles is not recycled. One reason is that bottles are not properly disposed. For example, because consumers don’t properly seperate plastics from general waste. Secondly, the infrastructure for recycling is still limited. As a result most bottles end up in landfill or are being incinerated. Valuable material is wasted. Incineration also causes air pollution and contributes to acid rain.

YOUR DEED FOR THE DAY

Your mum may have told you not to pick up things from the street, but… Next time you see a roaming PET bottle, pick it up and dispose it in a proper place. So it won’t celebrate its 450th birthday in our nature. Believe me, it becomes quite entertaining and rewarding when you do so!

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