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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WATER REFILL APPS: AN INVESTIGATION

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

HOW DO WATER REFILL APPS WORK?

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

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

COMPARING REFILL APPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REFILL AMBASSADORS X ?

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

OUR FUTURE VISION

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

DO YOU KNOW MORE WATER REFILL APPS?

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

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