PUBLIEK WATER: ‘LOWERING THE TRESHOLD FOR A REFILL’

“Lowering the threshold to ask for a refill”. That’s the main goal of Publiek Water (translated as ‘Public Water’), a new initiative founded by 5 colleagues in Haren, the Netherlands. The team combines this national refill project with their regular job for advertising agency ‘Publiek’. We spoke with project manager Erik Jaap Dijk.

Publiek Water Team at refill station 'Schoenenzaken'

INTERVIEW WITH ERIK JAAP DIJK (E), PUBLIEK WATER

Publiek Water, the name of your project is linked to your company’s name. It also suggests you consider refilling to be a public right. Is that right?

E: Yes. The name is even part of the philosophy behind the name of our advertising agency. Publiek Water originated from the desire to do something visible for the largest public; worldwide. Tap water quality in the Netherlands is incredible. And there are many good refillable bottle designs. But the threshold to ask for a water refill is high. People are ashamed to ask for it. With Publiek Water, we want to lower this threshold.

That’s true. We noticed that tresholds to refill can be really high for some people indeed. How can new venues sign up?

E: We approach local businesses (shops, restaurants, bars etc.) personally/by mail and ask if they want to become a refill station. 9 out of 10 say yes. We add them to the map on our website and provide them with a window sticker, something we consider to be really important. The venues can choose to make donation to Publiek Water. So far, 341 venues have joined.

Interesting that you have a donation-based system! How does that work out?

E: About 50% of the participating venues donate. Those who donate usually pay €3,50 (the ‘cost-price’ = printing costs for the stickers + mail delivery service), but every now and then we receive bigger donations, €20,- or €50,- for example.

Cool. I hope your example will motivate other refill initiatives worldwide. What are your next steps?

E: We want to start new campaigns to raise awareness on the issue of plastic waste. Next month, we’ll be standing on a fair with our own stand, made from single-use plastic bottles. Secondly, we want to prepare our project for the long-term. It starts to get more time consuming and is not yet economically viable. Therefore we’re in the process of turning Publiek Water into a not-for-profit organisation.

That makes sense. Last question: what is your ultimate goal? 

E: When 80% of the people in the Netherlands dare to asks for a refill, our work is done!

Thanks a lot Erik, we appreciate your work and wish you good luck.

READ MORE

Check out the Publiek Water website (in Dutch). Interested to learn more about refilling in the Netherlands? Read our previous blog: Public drinking fountains in the Netherlands.

Images: Publiek Water

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