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. The iOS version will be released soon.

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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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