REFILL DEUTSCHLAND: GERMANY’S UNIQUE GRASSROOTS REFILL MOVEMENT

Refill Deutschland (Refill Germany) recently celebrated its third birthday. So far, this nationwide refill organisation has put 5.400 refill stations and public drinking fountains on the map. From the start, all team members have worked voluntary. Even more interesting: it has grown into an open community project, where everyone can join. In this interview, Refill Deutschland founder Stephanie Wiermann and content writer Louisa Bahl explain how they operate.

INTERVIEW WITH STEPHANIE AND LOUISA, REFILL DEUTSCHLAND

Stephanie, you founded Refill Deutschland in March 2017. How come?

Stephanie: I was inspired by Refill (UK), Refill Bali and Refill NY and wanted to bring the concept to my city, Hamburg. So, I created the website, designed the window stickers and Refill Deutschland was born. My initial plan was to operate just in Hamburg. But soon after, people from other German cities showed interest, too. This is how it turned into a national movement.

That makes sense. You probably picked the right time to start. And word of mouth can be powerful. We’ll talk about that later. Could you tell us a bit about the team and about yourselves?

Stephanie: Sure! Our core Refill Deutschland team currently consists of Michael, Louisa and me. Another 5 volunteers join us regularly and we are very happy about their work in the field of social media and research. And then we have community-volunteers all over the country. As for me, I work in web design and graphic design. Last year I started a wild herbs cooking school. In our backyards and all around us the delicious and healthy wild herbs are growing but we lost the knowledge about it. I want to bring them back in our lives.

Stephanie Wiermann. Copyright Sabine Büttner

Louisa: I joined the team about in January 2019, but I noticed the project already in September 2018, when I saw a small article in a magazine. I have always been interested in water and wrote my first school project about Nestlés drinking water projects with the age of 17. As I wanted to engage for something connected to the environment and especially water,  Refill Deutschland is a good fit. I am the content writer for Refill Deutschland.

Louisa Bahl, content writer Refill Deutschland

EASY AND ACCESIBLE

Happy to hear that. You all run this project as volunteers. Is that a conscious decision or out of necessity? 

Stephanie: We have discussed this topic a lot. Of course, we could try to sell our own branded bottles or look for sponsors as most refill initiatives do, but this means other commitments. We keep coming back to the same ideals: as easy and as accessible as possible. In addition, we want to lower the boundaries to refill, even a jam jar is suitable!

Therefore, we keep our operational costs as low as possible. I maintain the website and we have a set of banners. New refill stations print or order their own window sticker.  Our communities (in various German cities) also choose the low-cost DIY approach, for example when organising campaigns.

Refill Deutschland awareness campaign run by volunteers in the city of Jena, Germany

 

Louisa: I think we all are intrinsically motivated to change the ways how we consume and how we pollute, so we all invest our free time for the good. And as Stephanie said, we all agree that our guidelines – that we want to stay independent and open and free to all who want to join – are an outstanding signal of Refill Deutschland. We had more than 50 cities, in which people were organizing the Refill cities, and at some more than twenty distribution stations you can pick up the blue stickers for free.

Refill Deutschland sticker
Refill Deutschland window sticker. Copyright Jens Peter Wedlich Schüttgut

Ah nice! At Refill Ambassador we have a very similar approach. We all work as volunteers too. How do you balance the amount of time and effort you spend on this project?

Stephanie: It’s a lot of fun. In case you’re thinking about starting a refill platform in your own country, just do it! Now is the right momentum.

Louisa: As in my opinion, Refill Deutschland is an important step to reduce plastic waste and revalue our tap water, I would love to do more, also because I really like writing, particularly about topics which are close to my heart It has to fit with my master degree, my student jobs, and as it is all voluntarily, also with hobbies and seeing family and friends. But luckily, there is no strict schedule for publishing new blogs. I basically write when I’ve time and when there is something meaningful to share.

Stephanie: At some point, it got too much. We were sending out window stickers, lobbying for new refill stations, manually adding refill stations to the map, etc. So last summer, we decided to change our approach. Louisa, Michael and me would still facilitate Refill Deutschland, but the communities would take care of themselves. We redesigned the website, altered texts and made it easier for others to add refill stations.

Wow! And how did that go?

Stephanie: It felt like letting go of my ‘baby’, but it went surprisingly smooth. The number of refill stations on our map is still growing, albeit a bit slower than at first.

ADDING REFILL STATIONS TO THE MAP

The refill stations are listed on the ‘Karte von Morgen’ map. How does this work?

Louisa: It is an open source app. On our website, you can add both public fountains as well as enterprises. By using 4 hashtags #refill #refill-station #trinkwasser #leitungswasser (tap water) users can find the refill station in the Karte von Morgen website or app (available in beta-version).

Can any venue be a refill station?

Stephanie: Some people wonder whether we should add restrictions. Could an 18+ adult store be a refill station? Or what about large coffeehouse chains, who serve all take-away drinks in single-use plastics? These are tricky questions. We decided not to take stands here. Everybody should be able to join the network. The more stations the better.

Louisa: Again, the community is self-supporting here. When people have bad experiences with a certain refill station, or when the refill station is not in use anymore they can give online feedback. Or even delete the station.

Refill stations and public fountains in Hamburg, Germany. Source: Karte von Morgen

I agree. You cannot control everything. Plus, people can always choose to not use certain refill stations. Last question: where do you think Refill Deutschland will be in five years?

Stephanie: I don’t know, I’ll be almost 60 years old by then! Let’s hope we do not need Refill Deutschland anymore. Because refilling and drinking tap water even at home has become completely normal.

Louisa: I would hope so, too. But nah, I think we’ll still be there informing and inspiring the public, because as with other sustainable changes, it probably needs more time sadly…

Cool! In the meantime, we’ll keep you up to date on the latest developments. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences, Stephanie and Louisa. Tschüss!

JOIN THE MOVEMENT

Refill Deutschland hardly uses promotional materials due to environmental concerns, so let us help them with a bit of promo here on this blog…

Do you have a venue in Germany and would you like to become a refill station too? Great! It is fairly simple:

  1. print/order your Refill Deutschland window sticker and optionally a poster;
  2. list your refill station on the map;
  3. invite thirsty refillers;
  4. (optional) add your refill station to other international refill apps, (read our blog for more information).

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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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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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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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BEST PRACTICES: REFILLMYBOTTLE

In our previous blog we analysed different water refill apps. One app that stood out was RefillBali, which shows over 700 refill stations across Indonesia and some parts of South-East Asia. We were amazed how much this organisation has achieved in a short time. How do they work? And what are their challenges? Read our interview with Christine Go, project manager at RefillMyBottle.

INTERVIEW WITH CHRISTINE GO (C)  BY HELLA HEKKELMAN (H)

H: When and how did RefillBali started?

C: RefillBali was initiated by Alex Tsuk and the BGreener Community around 1,5 years ago. Together with some other sustainable businesses owners, they built a network of water refill stations on Bali. The network is expanding to neighbouring islands in Indonesia as well as other countries, so the name was evolved to RefillMyBottle.

H: And for you personally, why did you want to work for RefillMyBottle?

C: As a part of my master degree in Climate Change and development, I took a research on Indonesian students’ behaviour towards the use of plastic bottles. One thing I discovered is that Indonesian students tend to bring their own reusable bottles when they live in the UK, yet not in Indonesia itself. This is due to the absence of refill facilities and tap water is not drinkable in Indonesia. When I came back and found out about this initiative, I wanted to apply immediately.

H: Can you tell me something about the plastic pollution in Bali?

C: Bali is an island that tourism has impacted in myriad ways. Over 5 million travellers visit Bali every year, staying in Bali for an average of 4 days. Tourists consume, on average, 2 litres of water each day. With each tourist using around 4 half-litre bottles a day, over 6 million disposable plastic bottles are used and discarded every month in Bali alone. And the numbers are only increasing. The lack of waste management systems means that these water bottles end up in landfills, the ocean, or are burned which creates toxic fumes. It’s clear that the problem needs to be tackled at the source by reducing consumption of plastic water bottles.

H: That’s an urgent problem indeed. Therefore we need to have many refill stations. How do they work?

C: Any businesses can register themselves as RefillStation on our website. They can choose the type of water they want to offer: gallons or filtered, as long as it’s safe to drink. They can give free refills or charge a small fee, ideally not more than the cost of plastic bottled water in shops.

THE REFILL BALI APP

H: I really like your app. How do you connect refill points to the app?

C: Thank you. The app shows all the businesses who have registered as refill stations through our system. We have recently integrated our map with refill stations from a number of similar projects, such as Refill Not Landfill and Luang Prabang – Handle with Care. For instance, if people open the Refill Not Landfill, they will see the RefillMyBottle stations, and vice versa. EXO Foundation and KHIRI Reach, as part of Impact Vietnam, are now taking the lead in expanding the RefillMyBottle network in Vietnam.

H: The users of the refill stations, are they mainly locals, tourists or both?

C: We work within the sustainable tourism scope together with other tourism businesses and organisations. For now,  most of the refill stations are located in tourist areas with travelers being our main target group. However, we hope that in time this initiative can be brought to the local level as well.

H: What challenges do you face?

C: Limited resources. Right now, we are only a team of three people working remotely for RefillMyBottle, and some of us are working on a part-time basis so we can only grow so much. We need your help to bring this initiative to the next level. You can support us by helping spread the words about RefillMyBottle in your local community or through our fundraising page.  

H: Let’s hope you can find a way to deal with this. What are your future plans?

C: Imagine a world you can explore without ever buying a plastic bottle. We are hoping to create this world. Mapping places around the global where people can refill their water bottle.

H: That would be great. Could we from Refill Ambassadors also add new refill stations to your app? And what about public fountains?

C: Yes, absolutely! We are very happy to grow the refill stations network. You can do so by completing our online sign-up form which can be found at our website. With the new app people can also make suggestions for public fountains and we will upload them onto the map.

H: Do you have tips for us, Refill Ambassadors?

C: Engage with local organisations who know the community better. We work together with a number of organisations who take the lead of this initiative at their local community, andwhat a coincidence because we call them the ‘refill ambassadors’, just like you!

H: We’ll keep that in mind, thanks. Last question: we talked about your approach, challenges and future plans. What do you dream about?

C: I hope that at some point we don’t need an app anymore to refill, because you can find refill stations just on every corner. I hope that bringing a reusable bottle and refill will become the norm. But right now to have the app is a good tool to create awareness and help people find refill points.

H: Terimah kasih! Good luck with RefillMyBottle.

C: You too, thank you so much!

TWO PROJECTS, ONE GOAL

It turns out that Refill Ambassadors and RefillMyBottle have many things in common. The conversation with Christine has been so nice. To me it felt like calling a close friend, even though we’d never met before and there is twelve thousand kilometer between us. I am looking forward to collaborate with her and the RefillMyBottle team in the near future. Stay tuned!

DOWNLOAD THE APP & START REFILLING

If you want to support RefillMyBottle, download the app and follow them on facebook. And of course, carry a refillable bottle with you all the time.

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