REFILL DEUTSCHLAND: GERMANY’S UNIQUE GRASSROOTS REFILL MOVEMENT

Refill Deutschland (Refill Germany) recently celebrated its third birthday. So far, this nationwide refill organisation has put 5.400 refill stations and public drinking fountains on the map. From the start, all team members have worked voluntary. Even more interesting: it has grown into an open community project, where everyone can join. In this interview, Refill Deutschland founder Stephanie Wiermann and content writer Louisa Bahl explain how they operate.

INTERVIEW WITH STEPHANIE AND LOUISA, REFILL DEUTSCHLAND

Stephanie, you founded Refill Deutschland in March 2017. How come?

Stephanie: I was inspired by Refill (UK), Refill Bali and Refill NY and wanted to bring the concept to my city, Hamburg. So, I created the website, designed the window stickers and Refill Deutschland was born. My initial plan was to operate just in Hamburg. But soon after, people from other German cities showed interest, too. This is how it turned into a national movement.

That makes sense. You probably picked the right time to start. And word of mouth can be powerful. We’ll talk about that later. Could you tell us a bit about the team and about yourselves?

Stephanie: Sure! Our core Refill Deutschland team currently consists of Michael, Louisa and me. Another 5 volunteers join us regularly and we are very happy about their work in the field of social media and research. And then we have community-volunteers all over the country. As for me, I work in web design and graphic design. Last year I started a wild herbs cooking school. In our backyards and all around us the delicious and healthy wild herbs are growing but we lost the knowledge about it. I want to bring them back in our lives.

Stephanie Wiermann. Copyright Sabine Büttner

Louisa: I joined the team about in January 2019, but I noticed the project already in September 2018, when I saw a small article in a magazine. I have always been interested in water and wrote my first school project about Nestlés drinking water projects with the age of 17. As I wanted to engage for something connected to the environment and especially water,  Refill Deutschland is a good fit. I am the content writer for Refill Deutschland.

Louisa Bahl, content writer Refill Deutschland

EASY AND ACCESIBLE

Happy to hear that. You all run this project as volunteers. Is that a conscious decision or out of necessity? 

Stephanie: We have discussed this topic a lot. Of course, we could try to sell our own branded bottles or look for sponsors as most refill initiatives do, but this means other commitments. We keep coming back to the same ideals: as easy and as accessible as possible. In addition, we want to lower the boundaries to refill, even a jam jar is suitable!

Therefore, we keep our operational costs as low as possible. I maintain the website and we have a set of banners. New refill stations print or order their own window sticker.  Our communities (in various German cities) also choose the low-cost DIY approach, for example when organising campaigns.

Refill Deutschland awareness campaign run by volunteers in the city of Jena, Germany

 

Louisa: I think we all are intrinsically motivated to change the ways how we consume and how we pollute, so we all invest our free time for the good. And as Stephanie said, we all agree that our guidelines – that we want to stay independent and open and free to all who want to join – are an outstanding signal of Refill Deutschland. We had more than 50 cities, in which people were organizing the Refill cities, and at some more than twenty distribution stations you can pick up the blue stickers for free.

Refill Deutschland sticker
Refill Deutschland window sticker. Copyright Jens Peter Wedlich Schüttgut

Ah nice! At Refill Ambassador we have a very similar approach. We all work as volunteers too. How do you balance the amount of time and effort you spend on this project?

Stephanie: It’s a lot of fun. In case you’re thinking about starting a refill platform in your own country, just do it! Now is the right momentum.

Louisa: As in my opinion, Refill Deutschland is an important step to reduce plastic waste and revalue our tap water, I would love to do more, also because I really like writing, particularly about topics which are close to my heart It has to fit with my master degree, my student jobs, and as it is all voluntarily, also with hobbies and seeing family and friends. But luckily, there is no strict schedule for publishing new blogs. I basically write when I’ve time and when there is something meaningful to share.

Stephanie: At some point, it got too much. We were sending out window stickers, lobbying for new refill stations, manually adding refill stations to the map, etc. So last summer, we decided to change our approach. Louisa, Michael and me would still facilitate Refill Deutschland, but the communities would take care of themselves. We redesigned the website, altered texts and made it easier for others to add refill stations.

Wow! And how did that go?

Stephanie: It felt like letting go of my ‘baby’, but it went surprisingly smooth. The number of refill stations on our map is still growing, albeit a bit slower than at first.

ADDING REFILL STATIONS TO THE MAP

The refill stations are listed on the ‘Karte von Morgen’ map. How does this work?

Louisa: It is an open source app. On our website, you can add both public fountains as well as enterprises. By using 4 hashtags #refill #refill-station #trinkwasser #leitungswasser (tap water) users can find the refill station in the Karte von Morgen website or app (available in beta-version).

Can any venue be a refill station?

Stephanie: Some people wonder whether we should add restrictions. Could an 18+ adult store be a refill station? Or what about large coffeehouse chains, who serve all take-away drinks in single-use plastics? These are tricky questions. We decided not to take stands here. Everybody should be able to join the network. The more stations the better.

Louisa: Again, the community is self-supporting here. When people have bad experiences with a certain refill station, or when the refill station is not in use anymore they can give online feedback. Or even delete the station.

Refill stations and public fountains in Hamburg, Germany. Source: Karte von Morgen

I agree. You cannot control everything. Plus, people can always choose to not use certain refill stations. Last question: where do you think Refill Deutschland will be in five years?

Stephanie: I don’t know, I’ll be almost 60 years old by then! Let’s hope we do not need Refill Deutschland anymore. Because refilling and drinking tap water even at home has become completely normal.

Louisa: I would hope so, too. But nah, I think we’ll still be there informing and inspiring the public, because as with other sustainable changes, it probably needs more time sadly…

Cool! In the meantime, we’ll keep you up to date on the latest developments. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, Stephanie and Louisa. Tschüss!

JOIN THE MOVEMENT

Refill Deutschland hardly uses promotional materials due to environmental concerns, so let us help them with a bit of promo here on this blog…

Do you have a venue in Germany and would you like to become a refill station too? Great! It is fairly simple:

  1. print/order your Refill Deutschland window sticker and optionally a poster;
  2. list your refill station on the map;
  3. invite thirsty refillers;
  4. (optional) add your refill station to other international refill apps, (read our blog for more information).

Follow Refill Deutschland on facebook

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REFILLME: A NEW REFILL PROJECT IN MYANMAR

Can you get a water refill in Myanmar? Yes you can! Today we want to inform you about a promising new refill project, situated in Yangon, Myanmar. Last year, three ambitious students founded RefillMe. Starting small, dreaming big. We just met and immediately became fans. Sit back and enjoy our interview with Haling Min Aung, co-founder of RefillMe.

INTERVIEW WITH HALING MIN AUNG, REFILLME (YANGON, MYANMAR)

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, and your role at Refill Me Yangon?

Mingalarpar! My name is Haling Min Aung. I work in Earth Day Network Myanmar as an assistant manager, while also managing communications at RefillMe. Furthermore I am an activist educator in Yangon. I strongly believe that climate change should be taught in every school as the future of our Earth depends on our ability to take action.

Mingalarpar (what an amazing way to say hello)! Why and when did you start this project?

After completing an environmental studies program from the University of Yangon, we decided to tackle environmental issues in Myanmar by initiating projects. We initiated the first one, RefillMe, in November 2019.

So you already completed the first half year. We’ll talk more about the project soon. But first: who are ‘we’? Can you tell something about the team?

Sure! Other team members are my classmates from the environmental studies program. My teammate Aung Pyi Soe coordinates the RefillMe project and fellow teammate Ye Myo Zaw conducts the refill pilot in Yangon.

The RefillMe team

That’s nice. Many environmental projects (including Refill Ambassadors) start with only one advocate, and RefillMe already has three. What did you do with the refill pilot in Myanmar? How did it go so far?

The refill pilot is carried out to address issues and challenges faced during the registration process of public refill stations. It is successfully done in two townships of Yangon by using observational study as a means for gathering information. Currently, we are working together with Thant Myanmar to map Yangon (Thant Myanmar is a non-profit organisation, aiming to reduce the use and dependency on single-use plastics).

Very smart, we highly recommend people to team up with other NGO’s and (local) action groups. Together, we can create more awareness. What kind of bottles do people use when they refill in Myanmar?

Refillers use aluminium bottles, stainless steel bottles and polycarbonate bottles. Reusing PET bottles is also common in Myanmar.

TAP WATER IN MYANMAR

Mmm, just like we do in the Netherlands. Here we drink directly from the tap. How is tap water quality in Myanmar? Do local people drink tap water? Or do you drink with filters?

There is strict regulation for water quality that is supplied, however water quality varies from region to region. Factors like flooding, lack of safe water storage, old infrastructures and pipes affect the water quality. That is why people don’t drink right out of the tap. Households use filter or boil the water for consumption.

Water ATM, Yangon

Good to know. Another question: is there plastic deposit on plastic bottles in Myanmar? How is the plastic recycling infrastructure?

To our knowledge, there is no formal plastic deposit on bottles in Myanmar but you can get some cash back by selling plastic bottles to waste collectors. Recycling activities in Myanmar are carried out mostly by the informal sector, which includes scavengers, waste collectors, and waste dealers. These scavengers and waste collectors collect recyclable materials such as newspapers, books, cardboards, metal, plastic bottles, tin and glass from households, commercial areas and streets and in turn sell these items to waste dealers who clean and sell them to the recycling industry both locally and for export. We also have local plastic recycling start-ups and NGOs.

That sounds a bit chaotic but it can work. We think avoiding and reducing single-use plastics is better than recycling, but plastic-recycling can be useful to create new materials. And some people make a living out of it. We are curious to learn more about these recycling start-ups. And of course, to learn more about RefillMe, but we won’t steal any more time. Last question: what are your next steps?

We plan to look for new partners to facilitate our project expansion. RefillMe is more than just adding stations to reduce plastic consumption. Our team is using a more holistic approach to consider things like water quality, accessibility, affordability, and aesthetics which can help us accelerate progress towards UN Sustainable Development Goal 6 in Myanmar (clean water and sanitation). We dream about going beyond RefillMe project. Currently, we are working hard to launch two new projects in August.

Thank you so much Aung, we’re looking forward to hear more from you and your team!

STAY UP TO DATE ON REFILLME

Want to know more about RefillMe? Follow RefillMe on facebook or leave your message below. And if you happen to visit Myanmar, bring your empty bottle and pay attention to the refill stations. Join the #refillution!

All images in this blogs are provided by RefillMe.

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15 CENT DEPOSIT ON SMALL PLASTIC DRINK BOTTLES

In these strange weeks, we have been rather silent. Luckily we can share some positive local news with you. The Netherlands will introduce a 15 cent deposit system on all plastic bottles < 1 litre! This measure will come into effect in July 2021. We’re already looking forward to it.  

WHY DO WE NEED 15 CENT DEPOSITS ON SMALL PLASTIC BOTTLES?

You may consider the Netherlands clean and wonder whether small plastic bottles are a serious problem. Yes they are. According to Rijksoverheid, 100 million small bottles (out of the 900 million sold annually in the Netherlands) still end up being dumped. Take a close look and you see them scattered everywhere. While >1 L plastic bottles have had a 25 cent deposit for ages, small bottles had none. Some people need an incentive to get rid of their trash in a responsible way. 

GREAT VICTORY FOR PLASTIC SOUP SURFER

Countries like Denmark has shown bottles and cans rarely end up in landfills, thanks in large part to the pant deposit system. Previous efforts to reduce littering of small plastic bottles in the Netherlands have not been effective. Several stakeholders fought for years trying to convince our government to expand the current deposit system. Among them are Plastic Soup Foundation and Plastic Soup Surfer Marijn Tinga, who even dared to crossed the Channel on his DIY plastic-bottle surfboard to raise awareness. Many thanks for your persistence! 

Plastic Soup Surfer Marijn Tinga – Image source: Plastic Soup Surfer

WHERE CAN i RETURN MY EMPTY BOTTLES?

Producers will be responsible for the new deposit system and bear the costs thereof. Around 12.000 sellers will collect the small bottles: in large supermarkets, caterers, at most train stations and at large petrol stations along the road. Hospitality and small businesses are yet excluded from the obligation to collect small bottles. Schools and sports associations can also voluntarily opt for a collection point. We hope many of them will join, to set the right example to our young generation. 

WILL CANS BE NEXT?

In case the number of cans dumped as litter is not reduced by between 70% and 90%, the Dutch government will also introduce a deposit on canned drinks in 2022. We will keep you up to date!

WHICH COUNTRIES HAVE A DEPOSIT SYSTEM?

We tried to look for a source that contains a complete overview of deposit schemes around the world, but we could not find it. Please leave your comment behind if you can help. If you want to read more about deposit systems, here are two suggestions: How have plastic deposit schemes worked around the world or Deposit return schemes solving plastic waste.

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THE REMARKABLE STORY OF MYMIZU: JAPAN’S 1ST FREE WATER REFILL APP AND GLOBAL REFILL MOVEMENT       

Have you already heard of mymizu? If not, prepare yourself for a must-read. mymizu – Japan’s first free water refill app – was launched in September 2019. The app now displays almost 200.000 refill stations around the world, with new refill points being added every day. With around 20.000 app downloads. No kidding! And this is only the beginning. With the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games approaching, mymizu can lead to a global movement. Ready to get inspired? Read our interview with Robin Lewis, co-founder at mymizu.

The mymizu co-founders: Mariko McTier (l) & Robin Lewis (r)

 INTERVIEW WITH MYMIZU CO-FOUNDER ROBIN LEWIS

 What is mymizu?

mymizu (“mizu” means water in Japanese) is Japan’s first free water refill app. My team and I are working to expand the service across Japan and the world, especially as we approach the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

MYMIZU APP

That makes sense. In six months, the Olympic and Paralympic Games will attract millions of visitors. Visitors that will be responsible for a huge consumption of single-use plastics, like water bottles. Here mymizu can play a positive role. Is this also the reason why you started mymizu?

No. It all started with a trip to Okinawa, a beautiful cluster of islands in Japan that is known as a tropical paradise. My co-founder Mariko and I were blown away at how beautiful the beaches were, but as soon as we went off-the-beaten-track, we started finding more and more rubbish – especially plastic. I knew we were facing unprecedented levels of plastic waste in oceans globally, but seeing this hit home that it was also a major problem – even here, in Japan. It seemed totally crazy that we were paying so much money for something we didn’t really need (bottled water) and that this habit was having an enormous effect on our natural environment, and so we decided to try and stop the problem at the source.

Good thinking, we at Refill Ambassadors also feel tackling the problem at the source is the most effective way. This can be accomplished with adequate government policies, with the help of individuals, numerous zero-waste organisations and through refill apps like mymizu. How did you progress afterwards?

So, after several months of research, development and preparation, we launched the beta version of the mymizu app in September 2019. Within 4 months of launching, our app has been downloaded almost 20,000 times across 30 countries and have had over 1,500 refill points added by our users. We have also had hundreds of cafes, restaurants and hotels (including leading brands like Hilton Hotel and Patagonia) register on our platform as refill stations. We now display almost 200,000 refill points around the world, with new refill points being added every day – so you can you use the mymizu app anywhere in the world!

Amazing! Some plans take years to happen, your project already exceeded all expectations within a few months. How do you add new refill stations to the app? Is it free of charge?

Yes, it is free of charge! There is an “add refill spot” feature in the app, which allows users to add photos and other useful information about water stations. For refill partners (e.g. cafes, restaurants and hotels) – they just have to fill in a simple form on our website. We have new businesses registering every day, not just in Japan but even in Germany, Singapore and other countries too!

 Does mymizu earn any money? Do you sell anything or receive donations?

We ran a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, and were blown away by the response. We hit our fundraising target within 48 hours and this helped to develop our app and educational programs. Since then, we have also received support from several foundations, corporations and governments to scale our service, but we are still looking for supporters to help us expand our mission in 2020. We also have had the honour of being awarded the iF World Design Award “Social Impact Prize 2019” which also was accompanied by some financial support.

Congratulations. We hope you’ll manage to get the financial means necessary to create an even bigger impact. mymizu may be Japan’s 1st free refill app, worldwide there are some others like RefillMyBottle, Closca, Tap and Refill. Do you collaborate with other refill apps  / refill organisations in the world?

We have had contact with several people working in the refill space, and are exploring collaboration opportunities as we speak! This is something we would love to do. We are also now collaborating with local governments, schools and universities to further this movement for sustainability.

WHO ARE THE PEOPLE BEHIND MYMIZU?

We would love to hear more about possible collaborations, so please keep us informed. On our blog, we are also write about the people behind refill organisations. Can you tell us something about the mymizu team?

Our team is a very diverse group, in terms of nationality, background and interests! We have engineers, designers, environmentalists, as well as marketing professionals, copywriters and so on. We have people from Japan, UK, New Zealand, Australia and China, just to name a few nationalities! This diversity is critical for us, as we try and make an impact in Japan and around the world.

 The mymizu team

Interesting. What about your own background? Who is Robin Lewis?

Sure! I’m half Japanese and half British, and grew up mainly between the UK and Japan. In 2011, the big earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, leading to the Fukushima crisis, was a major turning point in my life. I spent several months in some of the worst affected areas (where my Japanese side of the family is originally from), and my time there made me question what is really important and fuelled my interest in sustainability, climate change and so on. I spent over half a decade working in humanitarian aid and international development after the earthquake, based in Japan but working in countries like Nepal, Haiti and Mozambique, mainly in post-disaster situations. I now work in the climate change space at an inter-governmental level, while also running mymizu, and an organisation called Social Innovation Japan.

Thank you for sharing your personal story. It seems you have a very busy schedule. Quite impressive you’re able to combine these different activities.

DREAMS AND NEXT STEPS @MYMIZU

Last question: what do you at mymizu dream of?

We dream about going beyond just water, and would love to extend the service to other products such as coffee and tea, for example! Our ultimate goal is to change consumer behaviour in Japan and more widely, and we see mymizu as just the first step in doing so.

Furthermore, we consider mymizu to not just be an app – it’s a movement. Education and in-person engagement are critical components of what we are trying to accomplish. In just the past 4 months, we have done over 50 talks and workshops at schools, universities and companies on themes such as sustainability and plastic consumption, and are using social media and other creative means to raise awareness of the plastics crisis. This is something that we will scale up going forward. We’re also excited to have recently established a mymizu team in Singapore and hope to roll out more local chapters going forward!

Thank you so much for sharing your personal story and plans with us. We are curious to find out where you and mymizu will be standing in one year from now. After the Olympic & Paralympic Games 2020. For now, we keep in touch so please keep us informed.

READY TO JOIN THIS MOVEMENT?

The mymizu app enables users to track their impact; specifically the CO2 emissions, bottles and money people save by refilling!  Mymizu’s first big target is to track the elimination of 1 MILLION bottles in 2020 (#1millionbottles challenge). They would love for you to track your impact and join them in this mission! So download the app (available on iOS and Android) and start refilling. The app is available in English and Japanese.

Read more about mymizu via their website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn pages.

Connect with Robin Lewis on LinkedIn

Source images: mymizu.co

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WATER REFILL APPS: AN INVESTIGATION

Going on holiday? Or looking for refill stations in your neighbourhood? Bring your durable bottle and use a refill app to find the nearest refill station. We searched in the two main app stores and found >10 different water refill apps plus some online refill platforms. How do you know which refill app 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 station within their database. However, these apps greatly differ in scope and approach:

    • Global vs local: some apps show refill station across the globe, others only have refill stations in one specific city or region.
    • Public vs private: some apps only show refill points in public areas (drinking water fountains), others also 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: counting the number of bottles saved, opening hours, earning points for discounts, etc.

COMPARING REFILL APPS

We tested all different apps and refill map websites. Some really amazed us, others did not function very well. Read our descriptions below.

‘GLOBAL’ REFILL APPS

Refill includes >30.000 free refill points in public areas and local venues across the U.K., and elsewhere in the world. Users can easily add new refill points and track how many bottles they have saved. (HQ: U.K.)

RefillMyBottle depicts refill stations around the world, mainly across South-East Asia (HQ: Indonesia). Interestingly, this app also displays paid refill points. Venues can sign up easily. RefillMyBottle collaborates with the project RefillNotLandfillAsia, which also have a map of refill points on their website.

Closca has more than 200.000 refill stations across the world. Users can collect points to get discounts on products for each bottle refill. (HQ: Spain).

mymizu logo

mymizu displays almost 200.000 refill stations around the world, with new refill points being added every day. (HQ: Japan).

Tap shows free refill points in local businesses across the globe, mostly in Canada and the U.S.A. We think it has a nice lay-out and some cool extra features, but adding a new refill station is rather time consuming. (HQ: U.S.A).

refill app find water

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. (HQ: unknown).

‘LOCAL’ REFILL APPS

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.

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

Water for free promotes the refilling culture across Hongkong. It features free refill points in public areas and local venues. Users can add new refill points. Water for free also offers a ‘fountain rental service’.

BluHop™ was initiated by a (at that time) 14th year old Indian boy. The app shows refill points in India (free and paid). These include water vending machines, drinking water fountains and our other refill partners.

Zero Waste Sofia maps around 1.000 water fountains and some refill stations in venues across Bulgaria. The map is placed on the website (not as an app) and users can suggest new stations. The blog has amazing zero waste tips.

RefillNZ has over 1.100 refill stations on the map in New Zealand. The app is for iOS only; Android users can use the map on the website.

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.

Publiek Water has listed alomst 400 refill stations in venues (shops, bars, etc.) across the Netherlands

Drinkwaterkaart shows over 1.500 public fountains in the Netherlands. The map is available online (not as an app). The websie also displays free toilets and free swimming areas.

Find Drink Water shows free public fountains in some part of the Netherlands. The map is incomplete.

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.

The concept behind Reefill is to offer refill subscriptions for $1.99 / month (chilled and filtered water). Target area: New York City. The app is currently undergoing improvements and does not display refill stations.

WHY IS THERE NO REFILL AMBASSADORS APP?

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. Therefore we add new refill points to existing refill apps with a global coverage (Refill, Closca, RefillMyBottle and/or mymizu).

We think 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” or “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.

This blog is an updated version of our previous blog, published in July 2018. We added new refill apps and updated relevant data. 

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RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL PERU: MORE THAN JUST A TOUR OPERATOR  

Today we focus on RESPONSible Travel Peru, a community-based tour operator (HQ in Cusco). While tourism contributes 10% of global GDP and accounts for one in 10 jobs worldwide, the industry’s use of key resources is growing equitably. Think about its generation of solid waste, including marine plastic pollution, loss of biodiversity and greenhouse gas emissions. Tourists, tour operators, tourist accommodations and (local) governments are all responsible for this. And capable to change the industry.

That’s exactly what RESPONSible Travel Peru has been doing. During the past months, they organised several sustainability workshops throughout Peru. Including tips about how to become a refill station. We got curious and asked Daniel Muñoz all about it.

INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL MUÑOZ (D), EDITOR AT RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL PERU

Single-use plastics are still widely used in Peru. What are the biggest challenges?

D: There is a big culture around the use of disposable items. They are cheap, practical and available all over. Although the law against the use of plastic bags/cups, straws, styrofoam cups/boxes was approved last year, its enforcement is slow, and it is also being internalized in the minds of people at a very slow pace. There is still a hard-to-believe lack of consciousness among citizens and companies as well, but neither municipal government offices are doing their part (very few exceptions only). 

That is a shame. Some habits are not easily changed. Governmental rules and bans are a great help but not sufficient. Luckily, tourists and tourism facilities can make a change too. For the latter you organised several workshops. How did that go?

D: The workshops were held in various cities: Cusco, Urubamba, Puno city, Arequipa Coporaque, Nasca, Paracas, Lima, Huaraz and Chiclayo. We started months ago preparing ourselves via our own internal workshop (2 weeks) where, as a team, prepared the sustainability criteria and useful information to share with providers (transportation companies and drivers; agencies and guides; hotels and homestays; and communities that provide Community Based Tourism (CBT)). We contacted all the participants one by one, and asked them for collaboration in terms of conference rooms, snacks and lodging. 

So you managed to reach quite a lot of people. What kind of information did you share? How did your audience respond to the workshops?

D: The public was very participative. Also because we promoted participation within special segments of the workshop where we asked to mention problems faced in the area, as well as possible solutions. 

We started with an overview of global problems faced by the planet (global warming, SDGs, etc.). This was followed by a local overview and sustainable tourism approach. We explained who we are and our way to do stuff. Furthermore we looked at sustainability and tourism certifications (mostly Travelife). We gave a resume of sustainability criteria by sectors (as named above), and sustainability strategies. And then in detail about becoming refill stations.

CREATING NEW REFILL STATIONS IN PERU

That’s very good. In Peru refill stations are hard to find (and this increased our motivation to start Refill Ambassadors). For example in Cusco, there are so many hotels, bars, shops, restaurants and museums. The potential for new refill stations is huge! Let’s talk a bit more about your effort to create new water refill stations, since that is our main focus too. What worked well and what did not? Did you just ask your partners to become a refill station?

D: Yes, we started encouraging partners to implement refill stations at their businesses, first by means of the word through our workshops. That didn’t work out that well, only a couple did it right away, others only because we provided the water filters. But 25 other participants of the workshops filled out forms where they were requesting more information on how to become a refill station. So that was our next step.

We can imagine the concept of ‘becoming a refill station’ needs some more explanation before facilities actually join. Can you tell us in depth about this ‘next step’, how did you follow-up?

D: We implemented our own sustainability team, and already sent-out our first three newsletters sharing tips and relevant information, and a special one (with all the information related to refill stations) was launched as well. You can check this last one here (in Spanish). So far, about 30 new refill stations are on the way to be established.  

Tap water in Peru is not safe to drink. That means refill stations have to be equiped with some kind of water filter. Or they can be a large water tank (e.g. 20 L with deposit). Could you tell a bit more about the water filters you provided for some homestays? What type of filter is used?

This is the HUATTA family at their homestay in Taquile island, Titicaca lake (Nazava brand). A similar filter was provided to another homestay (coffee farmers) in Cusco, along our Coffee Route to Machu Picchu; and a third to a local restaurant in Cusco city with which we collaborate largely (they provide cooking lessons as part of our Meet-the-local activities).

It’s really great that you organised these workshops. And to see the effort is paying off. You at RESPONSible Travel Peru have become true experts while still continuously looking for improvements. Can you share some other sustainable travel tips?

Sure! Here are some tips we promote among our customers (we also posted about being environmentally responsible during a trip):

  • Travel light (and to use that space to bring donations).
  • Embrace the slow-travel philosophy. Really get to know the destination and meet the locals
  • Use ground transportation as much as possible (and to fly the least);
  • Bring reusable bottles and zero-waste kits
  • Eat local and slow food.

Daniel, thank you so much for your time and keep up the good work.

LEARN MORE

RESPONSible Travel Peru is a community based tour operator since 2009. Its founders wanted to tackle ‘the problem of welfare projects and defined periods specific to non-profit organizations, which seek to train small entrepreneurs and rural communities, but that at the end of the management fail to achieve self-sufficiency’ (read more). Over the years, RESPONSible Travel Peru has become much more than a just a tour operator: they are a great source of inspiration for travellers, tourist facilities and other tour operators in the world.

All images provided by RESPONSible Travel Peru

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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. 

READ MORE

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 30,000 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

HOW TO USE THE APP

READ MORE

The Refill app has been downloaded over 270,000 times. 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.

READ MORE

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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6X 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. 

6. CUSTOM EARTH PROMOS

Blogger Erin Pearson writes about simple lifestyle changes. Those small impacts can start to add up and make a difference. “These changes can be as simple as swapping one product on your next trip to the supermarket, choosing a responsible eco-friendly company over an oil-guzzling conglomerate, or simply reusing that coffee cup.” On the website Custom Earth Promos you find tips and tricks and a wide range of eco-friendly (packaging) products.

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

Around the world, there are thousands public drinking fountains. Refill your bottle during your citytrip, walk in the dunes or weekly workout. Free fresh water, no plastic needed! We love public fountains. But they can be hard to spot. It’s like searching for an ATM machine: when you really need them, you cannot find any. We know a solution: use the free water refill app Closca or mymizu.

WHERE DO I FIND PUBLIC FOUNTAINS?

Use your phone to locate an increasing number of public water fountains around the world! Water refill apps are free to use. We recommend you to use Closca and mymizu, as they cover the largest number of refill points, including many public fountains. We see many similarities between Closca and mymizu. Both apps work with user-feedback: you can suggest new refill stations (including public fountains) through the app. 

  • Closca Water app started in June 2019, and lists >200.000 refill stations worldwide. The app works with a reward system, you collect points when refilling. Download Closca here.
  • mymizu was launched in September 2019. The app now displays almost 200.000 refill stations around the world. Download mymizu here.

WHO TAKES CARE OF PUBLIC DRINKING FOUNTAINS?

Who is responsible for the water fountains? How are they maintained? Who decides where to place new fountains? This really differs per country. We can only speak for the Netherlands. Here, drinking water is supplied by ten different public water system companies. These companies facilitate and maintain our 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

PUBLIC DRINKING FOUNTAINS IN THE NETHERLANDS

Besides the apps Closca and mymizu, public fountains in the Netherlands are also mapped on the website Drinkwaterkaart.nl. The website (in Dutch) also displays free “pee-places” and “free-swimming-spots”. 

HAPPY REFILLING!

Public water fountains in general are safe but they seem to suffer from an image problem. We think this is unfair. Just make sure to double check in areas where tap water is non-potable. To prevent bacteria/virusus from spreading, you can use some clothing when pressing the button. 

What if there are no public fountains in your area? Try to refill your bottle in a bar, restaurant, shop. Don’t be shy, just ask! 

 

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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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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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