BEST PRACTICE: REFILL NOT LANDFILL & JAYA HOUSE

Where do I find the nearest refill station near me? Try one of the free refill maps. Today we shed light on Refill Not Landfill (Refill the world). Refill Not Landfill is a global campaign aiming to reduce single-use plastics, in particular single-use drinking bottles. We spoke with co-founder Christian de Boer, a Dutchman based in Seam Reap, Cambodia.

Christian de Boer
Christian de Boer

INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTIAN DE BOER (C), CO-FOUNDER OF REFILL NOT LANDFILL

RA: Can you tell us something about the plastic pollution in Cambodia?

C: In Cambodia tourism is responsible for 4.6 million water bottles every month. People might think ‘it’s only one bottle’ but together it adds up. Few plastic bottles are recycled.

infographic plastic problem
Infographic plastic problem in Cambodia (Source: Refill Not Landfill)

RA: Oh no! We really need tourists to use water refill stations. And that’s what you are trying to achieve with Refill Not Landfill. How do you operate?

C: Any businesses can register themselves as Refill Station on our website. Individuals can also add venues. First you make a free account and then you can add refill stations. The map tells you where to find the closest refill station, using the Google Earth map. Secondly, we provide reusable bottles. They are sold individually and in bulk for partners. The bottles have a QR-code leading to the refill map.

Example of Refill Not Landfill bottle

RA: That’s great! How many refill stations are mapped already?

C: The majority of refill stations on our map are in South-East Asia. Almost 400 in Cambodia and about 350 in Indonesia. But also in other countries, like Panama and New Zealand. We have integrated our map with refill stations shown in RefillMyBottle. So anyone opening the Refill Not Landfill map will also see the RefillMyBottle stations, and vice versa. 

RA: That is something we as Refill Ambassadors also would love to see. There are so many interesting refill platforms like mymizu and Refill. Imagine they all work together, we can make a bigger impact.

C: Absolutely! We are open for other parties to collaborate with us. 

JAYA HOUSE: HIGH-END HOTEL & SINGLE-USE PLASTIC FREE

RA: We’d like to ask you a personal question. You are a Dutchman living in Cambodia. How come?

C: After some time working in France, Singapore and Vietnam I received a job offer in a well-known hotel in Cambodia. I worked there for a couple of years until starting my own hotel, Jaya House. In the same time I founded Refill Not Landfill together with Dean McLachlan.

RA: How do you combine these activities?

C: All work for Refill Not Landfill is done voluntary (unpaid). Dean and I pay the expenses ourselves. My main job is for Jaya House, a small luxurious hotel, where I work as hotel manager. I am putting our single-use plastic free philosophy into practice in the hotel.

RA: Interesting! Can you give some examples of alternatives to single-use plastics?

C: Guests are provided with filtered water in glass jars. They also receive their own Refill Not Landfill bottle that they can take home. Some hotel managers might be concerned about hygiene. But in all those years, guests never complained about the absence of plastic wrapping. Our staff is well trained and the filters we use are safe. It is in our benefit to keep our guests healthy.

JAYA ORGANICS

RA: We understand, no one wants to have sick customers! What more?

C: We create our own natural skincare products. It is offered as an in-room amenity in glass bottles, and thus reducing the use of plastic. The brand ‘Jaya Organics’ is also available for purchase. Since all is handmade in Siem Reap it’s also creating much needed jobs and reducing the supply-line.

C: Cambodia is a very poor country. We are very concerned with providing jobs to people with disabilities. Two farmers – landmine victims – cultivate bamboo to provide the bamboo straws. Now with Covid-19 it is very difficult but we keep supporting them.

bamboo straw

RA: Let’s hope tourists will visit soon again. Last question: what are your future plans?

C:  I would like to continue our activities on a larger scale. It would be great when a company financially supports refill Not Landfill or incorporate it in their business. And I’d like to see more collaboration between refill apps. Maybe I fail in tackling the plastic problem, but at least I am trying.

RA: That’s the spirit! Thank you for your time and we keep in touch!

LEARN MORE ABOUT REFILL NOT LANDFILL

Inspired by the interview? Learn more about Christian de Boer in this podcast with Alex Chuk (RefillMyBottle).

Do you want to collaborate with Refill Not Landfill or do you have a question for Christian? Get in touch

Note: All photos are provided by Christian de Boer

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

RETULP: REFILL TO FULFILL

Dopper, Klean Kanteen, Retulp, Mizu, Camelbak. All these brands have designed their own bottle, but share the same goal: to reduce single-use plastics around the world. You might have read my blog about my BFF, my Best Bottle Forever. A bottle you always carry with you and want to keep refilling. I was curious to learn more about the motivation from the people behind a bottle brand. What is their mission? Who are their heroes? Time for a chat with Richard Gabriël, founder of Retulp.

THE PACKAGING DILEMMA

We meet at the train station lounge in the Hague. When ordering a tea, we both feel some frustration and sadness, as sugar, honey and the little cookies are wrapped in plastic. “If I were to open a restaurant I would use beautiful sugar bowls and big honey pots”, Richard comments. I already like his thinking! But what about the packaging Retulp uses?

Retulp bottles are being sold in a box made from recycled cardboard, with a small leaflet inside. Richard tells me he’d prefer to sell his bottles without any packaging material, yet most retailers do require this. Even EkoPlaza, an organic supermarket chain. They reason that consumers are less inclined to buy the bottles with a few fingerprints on it. A nice exception is Dille & Kamille (a home, garden and kitchen utensils store), who prefers to sell Retulp bottles without packaging. Interesting, I always thought the brands were to blame, but it turns out to be a lot more complicated.

ABOUT RETULP

Retulp was established in 2014 in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands. Back in the days, Richard was inspired by Plastic Soup Surfer Merijn Tinga. Local and global awareness on the plastic soup issue has increased enormously in the past three years. Retulp’s slogan is ‘Refill to fulfill’. Beside the stainless steel water bottles, they sell their tea/coffee thermos mug (see image below) and a biobased bottle (made from sugar cane). Richard feels the current incentives to refill hot drinks are too limited. “Starbucks give you €0,05 discount, while most staff perceives it as a hazard.” Retulp also considers to add lunch & dinner boxes in the future “so you can refill everything. Water, tea, your Thai takeaway meal”. Not surprisingly, Richard perceives ‘zero-waste sisters’ Jessie and Nicky Kroon as true heroes.

RECYCLING VERSUS REUSING 

I was wondering what Richard thinks about overconsumption. In his opinion, there is too much focus on recycling. Most of all we need to start buying less products. Secondly, try to buy sustainable products. I agree with this. In practice, recycling often means downcycling. The recycled raw material no longer has the purity of the original raw material. Although recycling is important, reusing and reducing is more effective.

We also talk about the perception of product value related to price. Nowadays, you can buy a reusable bottle for a few euros (e.g. made from Polypropyleen, plastic no. 5). This lowers the threshold for people to buy one. But we both feel ‘too cheap’ could have a high price. Do you look after your cheap bottle? If you lose it, you just buy a new one. We see the same thing happening in the fashion industry. People are more careful with a €100,- shirt than one that only costs €13,-.

MISSION INDISPOSABLE 2020

Back to Retulp. For 2020, Retulp aims to avoid 20 million disposable plastic bottles and to donate 20 million liters of drinking water to people in developing countries. They do this through Mission Indisposable 2020. For every bottle sold, 1.000 litres of clean drinking water will be donated. I’ll try to give you an update next year on the progress.

READ MORE

Two hours fled by and we had to end our interesting conversation. Thanks a lot Richard, for sharing your thoughts with me. Keep up the Dutch Design spirit! To read more about Richard Gabriël, Retulp and Mission Indisposible or to get your own Retulp bottle (also available printed or engraved for companies) visit the Retulp website.

YOUR BBF: BEST BOTTLE FOREVER

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

WHY DO I NEED A BBF?

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

WHAT IS THE FOOTPRINT OF A REUSABLE BOTTLE?

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

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

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

WHERE DO I REFILL MY BOTTLE?

Here our work as refill ambassador starts!

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

HOW DO I CLEAN MY BOTTLE?

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

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

 FIND YOUR BBF

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

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

Good luck and enjoy your BBF!