WHY SIGN UP AS A REFILL STATION? AND HOW?

Why would you sign up as a refill station? Because it really is an effective way to tackle plastic pollution at its source. But that’s not the only reason. Please read the story of eteaket, a beautiful Tea Room and Concept Store from Edinburgh, Scotland.

etaeket Edinburgh

REFILL STATION STORY: ETEAKET FROM EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND

  1. BEING A REFILL STATION FITS THE ETHOS

Did you ever think about the waste of all those tea bags we’re using worldwide? Numerous tea bags have been found to contain particles of plastic. A single plastic tea bag can shed billions of particles of microplastics. Luckily this is not the case at eteaket. The team is constantly looking for ways to minimize their environmental impact and to help their customers do the same. For example, the tea is packaged in biodegradable Nature Flex and their tea bags are made from soilon, a cornstarch-based material that is fully biodegradable. The outer packaging for their tea bags and looseleaf canisters is also completely recyclable. And they are members of the Ethical Tea Partnership. Signing up as a refill station fits perfectly with the “eteaket ethos”.

  1. SIGNING UP IS SUPER EASY

Being located in the UK, the team decided to list their two venues on the Refill app. Registering on the Refill app was straightforward and simple. Christine (store manager):“it took less than three minutes (the time it takes to brew a perfect cup of tea!). The Refill app was recommended to us by one of our customers!” Their advice to other businesses would be to take some time out today to join a movement which is good for you, good for your customers and good for the planet.

eteaket concept store

The copper sink in the middle of the room is where free water refills are available.
  1. TAP WATER QUALITY IS AMAZING

We cannot yet speak of a wide ‘refill movement’ in Scotland, but it would be the perfect setting for the #RefillRevolution. At eteaket, they realised Scottish Water is some of the best in the world. Why add more waste to the landfills when you can enjoy world-class water straight from the tap?

  1. BEING A REFILL STATION ENCOURAGES BIGGER STEPS

Putting your tap on the map is super easy and it helps to reduce the number of single-use plastic bottles (made from PET). It fits well within a bigger plan to reduce the impact of single-use packaging. eteaket encourages its customers to minimize plastic waste, by offer a 25p discount if people bring their own reusable cup. Yeah! They also sell a range of travel mugs in-store, including keep cups, bamboo flasks and Mei Li Tea Time travel flasks.

eteaket bottle assortment

The large assortment of reusable cups and travel mugs @eteaket

Christine: “A loose-leaf takeaway tea for only £1.65 is simply an offer too good to refuse; delicious, ethical and the perfect antidote to the ever-changing Edinburgh weather! With over 35 teas to choose from, what are you waiting for? Call into our store on 111 Rose Street for a life-changing cuppa that’s good for the planet!”

The weather in Amsterdam (HQ Refill Ambassadors) is pretty similar, so we know very well what tea can mean to you on a miserable grey rainy day!

READY TO SIGN UP AS A REFILL STATION?

We hope this story encourages other venues (bars, restaurants, shops, etc.) to list as a refill station too. It is fun! You can even economically benefit from it: new visitors enter your place for a free refill and might buy something else.

  1. All you need is a tap, tank or jug with clean water.
  2. Take a picture of your venue and list yourself to one or multiple refill apps.
  3. In addition, it really helps to put a window sticker or poster, so more people take notice.

In countries where tap water is non-potable, you can still become a refill station. By using water filters or by serving water from large tanks (e.g. 20 or 50L, on deposit). In these countries it is more common to charge a small fee for the water refills. Please drop us a line if you have any questions how to do this or what to charge.

In addition to Refill there are some other amazing refill apps with global coverage (like RefillMyBottle, Closca, mymizu). Ad there are some ‘local refill apps’. All of them are free to use and for signing up as refill station. If you doubt about which apps to sign up to, please contact us.

LEARN MORE ABOUT ETEAKET

eteaket tea assortment
Picture Copyright Chris Watt

eteaket was founded in 2008 by ex-lawyer Erica Moore. After a life’s too short moment, Erica travelled the world in search of quality loose leaf tea. Now 11 years later they have their Tea Room on Frederick Street in central Edinburgh, they export worldwide, wholesale across the UK and they have their Concept Store on Rose Street.

Christine: “We saw younger tea drinkers wanting somewhere contemporary and inviting to visit and learn more about tea. When we designed the store we asked our customers what type of things they would like it in. As a result, you can smell every tea in store, sample our teas from our cold brew station, enjoy a hot brew from our tea siphon and find unique and quirky tea accessories.

 We have found it to be a great space for people who want to learn more about tea, it is fantastic for tea tastings (which we hold for free every Wednesday from 12-12.30), tea master classes and events based around wellness. We often have free Saturday morning Yoga or events with independent Scottish brands like Isle of Harris Gin (which is available to purchase via their click and collect service in store). If you find yourself in Edinburgh make sure to pop in and say hi. We would be delighted to take you on a journey into the world of quality loose leaf tea.”

tea brewing
Picture Copyright Chris Watt

Note: other images provided by eteaket

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NEW! REFILL ITALIA (REFILL ITALY)

Italy is Europe’s 1st country when it comes to bottled water consumption per capita and the world’s 3rd country (after Mexico and Thailand). Therefore we are extremely pleased to inform you about Europe’s latest refill program: Refill Italia (Refill Italy)! Last year, they launched in close collaboration with Refill.org.uk. What are they up to? And how can you help? We spoke with Margeritha Cavalleri, co-founder of Refill Italia.

INTERVIEW WITH MARGERITHA CAVALLERI (M)

Why did you start this project?

M: Enrica and I both felt this kind of project was lacking in Italy, and it was time to make a real difference. We know each other for over twenty years so it was really nice we could start this project together.

Nice! Bottled water consumption in Italy is huge, so we’re glad you two initiated this refill project. Why did you decide to collaborate with Refill?

M: We prefer to collaborate instead of reinventing the wheel. By working with Refill we can learn from their >3 years of experience in the field. The Refill app works well and it saves us a lot of time and money because we don’t need to build our own app.

Italy is a large country, where do you start?

M: We are going to focus in Lombardy first, using Milano, our city, as a pilot project. But we really hope Refill Italia will widespread fast, reaching all other regions.

How do you finance this project?

M: At the moment we do all the work voluntarily, next to our regular jobs. Of course it is quite a challenge and sometimes it is hard to find the time, but when you are driven by passion and enthusiasm…

You must be very motivated! We face the same challenges at Refill Ambassadors, we do all the work for fun (free), and combine this with our own regular jobs. How many refill stations have you added so far?

M: Around 600 in the first four months. In England more than 22.000 Refill Station have been registered in the App so far.

That’s a very good start. We hope more Italians will add refill stations soon. What are your next steps?

M: We have great ambitions! We want to reach public places with a huge number of people on the road and water bottles on the go, such as metro and train stations!

Last question: how can people help you with Refill Italia?

M: We are in constant need for volunteers who want to help, by spreading the voice and involving bars, restaurants and owners of public spaces. To have more information just contact us at info@refillitalia.org

HELP REFILL ITALIA TO GROW

Alright Italians and tourists, we got a mission: bring your reusable bottle and look out for refill stations. If you cannot find any in the Refill app (or another refill app you may be using), try to encourage bars, restaurants and shops to become a refill station. Ask if you may add them to the Refill app, so other people know the new refill place exist.

Visit the Refill Italia website to learn more about the project. Use the hashtag: #REFILLit

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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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AMSTERDAM OPEN TAP CHALLENGE

On a beautiful sunny autumn day, refill ambassadors Hella and Félice went for an “open tap challenge” In the city center of Amsterdam: would venues open their tap for people, passengers of all kinds, just to have their water bottles filled? And so we approached cafe, boutique shop and supermarket staff. 

    

Besides improving ourselves each time at enthusing merchants of their potential in reducing single use plastics, we got to know this lovely quarter better. What a high density of coffee shops!

Many people we spoke with supported Refill Ambassadors’ ideas, but they  would need to check with their bosses if we could paste a “Refill” window sticker, or add their site to the “Refill” app to chart free water points. Some merchants did not hesitate to join the refillution – no big deal; tap water is for everyone!

We could say our challenge was a success by adding 5 new refill stations – free water points for everyone. People who cross a doorstep for a refill may just as well become customers!

WELCOME, NEW REFILL STATIONS:

  1. Café Gollem
  2. Urban Cacao
  3. Rapha
  4. kopjethee.NL
  5. Dimply Delights

WHO’S NEXT?

Thank you for spreading our tasty water to the people. Do you own a bar, café, restaurant or shop and do you want to open your tap to the public? Become a refill station! Please contact us, so we can help you.

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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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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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CLOSCA: OVER 200.000 REFILL STATIONS IN ONE APP

Have you already heard of Closca Water App? One year ago, we analysed 15 different water refill apps. Since then, a couple of new refill apps have joined the stage, including BluHop (India) and Closca (based in Spain). Triggered by the name, we checked out the Closca Water app and found more than 200.000 refill stations listed worldwide. Wow! And they have just started. Who are the people behind this organisation? How do they work? And what’s next? Read our interview with David Villalón, Product Manager at Closca. 

INTERVIEW WITH DAVID VILLALÓN, CLOSCA (D), BY HELLA HEKKELMAN (H)

H: When and how did Closca started?

D: We dream of a society where cities are a better place to live in and thrive. More sustainable, friendly, green and honest cities, where we are able to reflect and change things, redesigning our environment. That is why we create products that inspire you and create awareness and a positive impact on the planet. So we started with the collapsible helmet and the #citieswithsoul movement and continued with our reusable bottle and #mylastplasticbottle challenge, and now we are developing our refill app.

The Closca water app was launched in June so we are really new. We are also a very young team, the average age is 27. We try to make a product that can make impact, and to invite other organizations to join us. Our goal is to stop the plastic problem, generate impact and to help the most people with this.

H: Interesting. And for you personally, why did you want to work for Closca?

D: The difference with Closca and other organizations is that is real. We really want to generate a real impact at the society, environment… and because of that reason is why I love working here. My role is to coordinate all the app development and roadmap while creating new features and improving the experience, because of that I am able to talk with our users and feel how we are really into something great. It is awesome. 

H: Nice that you and your team are making real impact in society. With our project Refill Ambassadors we interviewed people from many different refill movements and we feel some other organisations are also doing great things, for local communities and globally. But Back to Closca. You say you want to help people. How?

D: Our app now has around 200.000 fountains. We also want to add new refill stations in small businesses, like bars and cafés. And also with big brand and shops, airports.

We see a change: some people are starting to see the problem of plastic waste, but others not (yet). We are trying to create a habit, that’s why we created a reward system. For example you get a discount when you buy something in a store when refilling your bottle. In this way, refilling will also be interested for people who want to save money. Not just for people who want to save plastics.

THE CLOSCA WATER APP

H: How could you grow from 0 to 200.000 refill stations in just two months?

D: We had another app, so we already had a big database with public fountains. In the Closca Water App you can also add new refill stations. We see that people all around the world are uploading new fountains every day. We have a really engaged community.

H: Ah, that makes sense! Can I ask you how you promote the app?

D: It’s a surprise for us because actually we haven’t promoted the app yet. But people are already using it and uploading pictures of new fountains. We were even contacted by a Mexican kid stating there are no fountains in his area, and he wants to do something about it. So we asked our network for help, hoping they can create new refill stations in businesses and start to make changes. What we valuate more and that motivate us is to listen to our user’s feedback, that they really care about the same problem that us.

H: That’s so cool! I hope it will work. Nowadays there are many different refill apps. What do you think will happen in the future?

D: I really don’t know. I don’t think there will be just one app. Our goal is not to be the only refill app, but to make impact and stop plastics. 

H: I agree. I think there will be room for multiple apps. Some people might prefer an app in their own language, or for a very specific region only. Last question: What are your future plans?

D: Now we are working on improvements for the app, for example specify the type of water (e.g. cold, filtered). And we close new partnerships all over the world. We are not trying, we are going for it.  

H: Thank you. Good luck with your work. And thanks so much for your time!

D: You too, thank you so much.

DOWNLOAD THE APP & START REFILLING

It seems Closca Water App and Refill Ambassadors will cross paths more often in the future. If you want to support Closca, download the app and upload new refill stations in the app. And of course, carry a refillable bottle with you all the time.

Images: Closca 

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BLUHOP: REFILL STATIONS IN INDIA THANKS TO A 14 YEAR OLD BOY

BluHop is a brand new refill app, launched on June 1st 2019. So far they have reached around 60 cities across India with over 200 Refill stations. BluHop has a remarkable story: it was initiated by a 14-year old boy named Aaryan. His father Akash helps him with operations, to expand the service and with networking. How cool! We wanted to know more about this project and the app. Read our interview with Akash Agrawal, BluHop.

INTERVIEW WITH AKASH AGRAWAL, BLUHOP

Why did you start BluHop?

‘We went on a long road trip sometime back. On our trip we found it very difficult to find places to refill our bottles. Every time we would end up buying plastic water bottles as there was no alternative. We knew there had to be better way and thus BluHop was born.’

Interesting story. In fact, your motivation to start BluHop is the same as we, Refill Ambassadors, had. Although we must admit Hella waited eight years before starting our project, while you acted immediately J. Back to your app. How does it work?

‘BluHop is a location based mobile app that lets users find refill stations nearby and get real time navigation. Users can see the following information:

  1. Nearest Refill station with time and walking distance
  2. Type of Refill partner (Café, restaurant, drinking fountain etc)
  3. Type of water available (Chilled, Regular)
  4. Conveniences at refill point – specially-abled friendly, parking etc.

Users can apply various filters if they wish and narrow down their search.’

Very clear. We expect these search filters will be useful. Which places can be added as refill stations?

‘Any consumer facing facility can be added as a Refill Station. These may be cafés, restaurants, salons, gyms, clinics, offices and more. Water vending machines and drinking fountains can also be added as refill stations. BluHop is free for Refill partners and users. Refill Partners need to sign up, answer a few questions, input their address and they are done. They show up as a Refill Station on the app and users can find them easily.

We also share stickers that we use on store fronts to let customers know that this store offers Free Refills.’

STARTING A NEW BUSINESS

You just started BluHop. What are the difficulties?

‘The Refill culture is not very prevalent in India. One of the reasons for this is that there was no way find refill stations, i.e. until now. We are hopeful that with time we will be able to change this. First time discussions with businesses are sometimes difficult as this is something new for them. However, once they understand they usually sign up.’

Changing behaviour always takes time and patience. It is great you are trying. Do you work together with other partners, sponsors or companies?

‘We have just launched the service. So far, we are working with WaterHealth International, a private, American multinational corporation headquartered in California. The company operates a network of water vending machines (WVMs) in India. We are also working with another large in-country WVM operator. There are multiple city level partnerships. Country wide partnerships are being forged as we go long. We hope to be able to announce these soon.’

WATER QUALITY IN INDIA

How is the water quality in India? Can you drink tap water (in some areas)?

‘There is strict regulation around water quality that is supplied however actual quality can vary from area to area. It is not advisable to drink right out of the tap for this reason. Every household has its own water purification system.’

Having your own purification  system at home is very good. But when you are on the go you need alternatives, like the refill stations you create. What kind of water is served at the refill stations?

‘Most refill stations serve both regular and chilled water. Purification system vary slightly however many refill stations use RO (Reverse Osmosis) based systems. A few water vending machine operators have their own multi-stage proprietary purification systems.’

What are your future plans?

‘We plan to initiate outreach in select cities and get a few partnerships going. Our immediate target is to reach five hundred refill points and then to a thousand by the year end. A medium sized but well known Cafe chain has agreed to offer refills. This is another first! We would be keen to extend our services to other regions, countries where no such service currently exists. Refill partners can sign up anytime from anywhere.’

Congratulations on your first Café chain! We hope more will follow. Do you have tips for us, Refill Ambassadors?

‘Refill Ambassadors are doing a great job. Every effort towards building awareness about the menace of plastic water bottles and how refill services are helping make a difference will drive usage and benefit the environment.

Most Refill services are only locally known. Global travel is increasing at a fast pace. If local refill station owners are encouraged to list themselves on multiple platforms, then it will further help drive awareness and build confidence in countries where refill culture is limited. Brands will also get more visibility across borders at no cost.’

We completely agree with this. Thank you so much Akash and Aaryan. We wish you good luck and hope to hear more from you in the future.

DOWNLOAD THE APP

The BluHop app is available on both iOS and Android. Be the first to like BluHop on facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Read more about BluHop on their website or get in touch with them through lestsconnect@bluhop.com.

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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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BEST PRACTICES: REFILL

Refill is on a mission to inspire social change: stopping plastic bottles at its source and making it easier to refill. Over the past years, this campaign has grown into a community with over 15,000 Refill Stations, which are listed in their app. How did this develop? What’s next? Time for an interview with programme manager Gus Hoyt.

INTERVIEW WITH GUS HOYT (G) BY HELLA HEKKELMAN (H)

H: Which places can be added as refill stations?

G: We want to be positive, fun and inclusive. Any businesses with a publicly accessible tap, that welcomes thirsty refillers, can be added as refill station. Public fountains can also be added to the map.

H: And how does this work? 

G: Our free Refill app is designed to find water on the go. Businesses have to create a free profile and are added to the map. With the specially designed window stickers local business owners show their commitment. The sticker also lowers the threshold to ask for a free water refill.

FROM 1 TO 15.000 REFILL STATIONS

H: Refill has grown from 1 to >15,000 refill stations in only three years. How did this develop?

G: It all began in 2015, when City to Sea was founded by Nathalie Fee. In the same year, Bristol had the European Green Capital award status. Refill was selected to be one of the test pilots and ended-up being one of three ‘Legacy Initiatives’ for the city.

Like most new ideas, we started small, and tested different models as pilots. Soon it became clear that the demand for refill stations was huge, not just in Bristol, but also in other parts. We tried out different (business) models before expanding. We built it up over the next year and started to grow in other parts of the U.K. It was hard work, especially at the beginning. In 2018 it exploded.

Finding funding was tricky as the initiative was new and investors wanted to see if Refill ran the test of time before committing.

H: I saw on the app that some franchises are also added as refilling stations.

G: Yes, quite a lot actually. Costa Coffee was the first chain to join. Then Weatherspoons, Starbucks, Fullers, and some others. Also many smaller ones like Boston Tea Party, who just won the ethical café award this year for ditching single use coffee cups! The conversations take a long time but once you got them on board you’ve got a high number of refill stations.

H: Mmm, that seems to require a lot of patience, persistence and enthusiasm. What about you? How did this job fit in your career?

G: Haha, good question! Among other things I worked as scuba-diver and chef, trying to develop sustainable menus. Then my focus shifted to sustainable housing and other green projects, before getting elected as a City Councilor and serving as one of  Bristol’s first assistant mayors (for the Green party). In 2016 the party lost its local seat, but the time was right and I could increase my commitment to Refill and think about expanding over the rest of the UK.

H: Interesting! Sometimes, unexpected situations have good outcomes. How do you keep track of thousands of refill stations?

G: We try to engage very much with communities, and get involved with a local level. For the U.K. we now have five regional coordinators, who enable and empower communities to start their Refill Group. Sometimes these local groups extend to other plastic free initiatives. Facebook groups and twitter handles are also powerful tools.

H: Can you share some of your future plans?

G: Our plan is to expand it next year to Europe. The Netherlands are a high priority for us and further afield we are looking to Australia and New Zealand. In Germany this is already happening, with Refill Deutschland and we’d like to help as much as possible. We hope to enroll more European countries. Furthermore we continuously try to improve our app and documents, like the “How to Guide”.

H: Excellent! We from Refill Ambassadors will try to help out as much as we can to facilitate this process and to stimulate the #Refillution.

G: That would be great!

START REFILLING!

This conversation with Gus made my day. I will keep you up to date about the team’s  adventures over the next months. But for now, let’s switch perspectives. What about YOU? Do you live in Europe or are you travelling around here? Then I recommend you to download the Refill app (available for iOS and Android). Like Gus explained, it saves you money, helps you to stay hydrated and last but not least to reduce single-use plastics.

FURTHER READS

Refill is part of City to Sea, a Community Interest Company campaigning to prevent plastic pollution at the source. Learn more about City to Sea.

Meet the people behind refilling projects! Read the Best Practices on Frank Water and RefillMyBottle.

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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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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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