Good news for refill lovers in the Netherlands: you can now use Google Maps to find the nearest public water tap! For example at train stations, squares or in a national park. Just search for ‘water tap’ on Google Maps. Almost 2.000 water taps are already in the system, thanks to Dopper.
GOOGLE MAPS VS. SPECIALIZED WATER REFILL APPS
Even though we are not the biggest fan of Google, we are happy with this new development. Fact is that Google Maps is the most used navigation platform in the Netherlands. So we hope more people will find their way to a water tap.
In 2018 we wrote a blog about different refill apps, and the need for a global system. For example The Netherlands may be a small country, but there are different refill apps/platforms (Drinkwaterkaart, Publiek Water, etc.). Some apps like Refill and mymizu cover multiple countries and also include refill stations in private places, such as bars and restaurants. We support the organisations behind these refill apps to continue their hard work. Because they raise awareness and save single-use bottles!
However, the problem is that these apps are less well-known. Plus people are used to one navigation app (Google Maps, Apple Maps, etc). This is the main reason that we as Refill Ambassadors did not create our own app.
NEXT STEP: EUROPE
Back to our main topic: using Google Maps to find public water taps. The refill points are currently only mapped for the Netherlands. Dopper wants to roll it out across the whole of Europe. And hopefully it will become available worldwide soon. But for now: check the overview of other refill platforms to find refill stations in other countries.
Imagine a hotel with 146 double rooms. Each guest uses 6 single-use plastic pieces for breakfast. With a 80% occupancy, this leads to 512,460 individual pieces of plastic in a year. And this is just from the breakfast service of one hotel…
The example above was illustrated by Travel Without Plastic. For years, this social enterprise is guiding the tourist sector how to reduce single-use plastics. They provide toolkits, workshops and they do consultancy. We are a big fan of their work. Today, we share some successful strategies to reduce single-use plastics and meet hygiene expectations.
SINGLE USE PLASTICS IN HOTELS
Many hotels still offer bathroom amenities, food and beverages in foam or single-use plastics. With the Covid-19 pandemic the use of unnecessary plastics seems to have increased. For example door seals or remote controls wrappers. What are alternative strategies? Jo Hendrickx, co-founder of Travel Without Plastic guides you through the following steps:
4 TIPS FOR HOTELS TO REDUCE SINGLE-USE PLASTICS AND MEET HYGIENE EXPECTATIONS
Only provide what is necessary. Less is more. Most customers will bring their own bathroom amenities. Do people need shoe-shine? Or cotton-pads? Remove them or make them available on request.
Embrace refills. Bottle your own (filtered) water and make them available for free or for sale. Choose reusable bottles and wash them daily to ensure hygiene. In addition, you can think of refillable soap and shampoo dispensers.
Don’t just switch to other single-useproducts. Some hotels replace single-use plastics with other materials. For example, a wooden comb or natural sponge. However, when used only one time this does not reduce the overall waste. So again, ask yourself: is this product necessary? If so, consider alternatives. First of all, prefer materials that can be recycled. Furthermore, pay attention to ‘compostable’ products: are they certified ‘home compostable’ or ‘commercially compostable’? Without suitable composting facilities available, try to avoid these products.
Clear communication. There is a ‘perception’that single-use is more hygienic. But often the opposite is true. Any product or surface can be contaminated with germs. Try to communicate room cleanliness in other ways. For example in the booking confirmation. Or with a verbal explanation at check-in.
REDUCING PLASTIC = SAVING MONEY
Following these four steps will not only reduce the waste stream, it can also save hotels a lot of money. Curious to find out how much? Or hungry for more tips? Then we recommend you to use the complete Travel Without Plastic guide and toolkit.
GET IN TOUCH AND FURTHER READING ON REDUCING SINGLE-USE PLASTICS
Last week, it was World Cleanup Day. In total, 39.324 people took part in the Netherlands, and hundreds of thousands of people around the globe. I also assembled a small team to clean the streets and parks in my neighbourhood in Amsterdam. Within a few hours, we collected 4 big bin bags. Many people praised us and it felt rewarding. However, five days later the streets were littered again. This made me wonder about the effectiveness of these cleanup events and organisations. Do they help or do they harm?
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR PLASTIC LITTER?
The Amsterdam municipality claims if 25% of the Dutch would clean up 1 piece of litter per day, there would be no more litter. There is even a campaign “Elke dag eentje” (one piece every day). This sounds fantastic, but it’s not very realistic. Furthermore, one could argue who is responsible for doing so: civilians or the Fast Moving Consumer Good industry?
The article frequently quotes Rob Buurman, director of Recycling Network Benelux. In his opinion, the (Ddutch) government perpetuates the story of the plastics industry: that the problem with plastic is mainly that citizens leave it lying around. “As long as there is the idea that we should clean up our plastic waste” ourselves “, the government is not thinking about legislation to prevent plastic waste – and it should.”
WHAT ABOUT CLEAN UP ORGANISATIONS?
Rob Buurman feels clean-ups and other end of pipe initiatives legitimize the lack of action of politicians. For example The Ocean Cleanup wants to clean up 40 thousand tons of plastics from our oceans in five years. This may sound like a lot – and it’s better than any organisation has ever done – but it’s only 0.0008 percent of 5,000 million tons of ‘loose’ plastic. Buurman: “The more successful Boyan Slat is in the media, the less it matters what you realize in terms of government policy. Because you have made the problem private, you have placed it with individuals in society, instead of with the government. “
COMPLETE BAN ON DISPOSABLE PLASTICS
So what kind of measurements could politicians take? Soft measures have not been very effective. For example in the Netherlands there is a mandatory price (e.g. €0,05) for plastic bags. Disposable paper bags have not been addressed. And many shops, bakers and greengrocers still sell everything in free disposable bags. Similarly, my cleanup day was not too effective in the end. Tomorrow, new litter will be on the streets.
The article advocates a complete ban or mandatory environmental tax on disposables (which is done in Ireland). It will be easier to enforce. The good news is that a 15 cent deposit system on small plastic bottles will be introduced next year in the Netherlands. Plus a production ban by the EU will apply for disposable plastics such as plastic cutlery, cotton buds, stirrers and straws. Last week our cleanup team found lots of these bastards, which made us wonder: why clean your ears on the streets?
PRODUCERS SHOULD TAKE THE LEAD
Governments are not the only ones to take action. The article suggests producers should take more responsibility, as they can make choices that consumers cannot make. Which products they market, how they design them and how they collect waste, whether or not in collaboration with other companies.
The article also sheds light on the NGO Alliance to End Plastic Waste. Plastic producers and waste processing companies such as Procter & Gamble, Shell, DSM, ExxonMobil or Pepsico aim to put in a billion euros, to be spent on clean-up campaigns, new recycling technology and better waste collection infrastructure. The founding companies behind this self-styled alliance to end plastic waste are among the world’s biggest investors in new plastic productions plants (source: Guardian). For example, ExxonMobil is building a new polyethylene production line in Texas that will soon produce 2.5 million tons of plastic – making it one of the largest plastic factories in the world. Shell is building a plant in Pennsylvania that will make 1.6 million tons of polyethylene per year.
HELPFUL OR HARMFUL? SHARE YOUR OPINION
After reading the full article I had mixed feelings. I still think cleanup campaigns, events and organisations are good, because some litter is collected (and every piece counts!). Cleanup campaigns increase awareness on the huge amount of packaging we use. And even if we were to prevent new plastics from littering, we still need to clean up the mess we already made. However, I also agree with the Tamar Stelling’s article. It would be better if governments and producers invest mainly in prevention. And enforce stricter bans on disposable plastics.
I’m really curious about your opinion. Do cleanup campaigns help or harm? Please post your comment below.
This week I was one of the speakers at the “Plastic DieetKickoff” (Plastic diet) in Rotterdam. A great opportunity to present Refill Ambassadors and to share tips on where to refill your bottle. I also got inspired myself. How much plastic packaging do I use? And what can I do to reduce this?
WE ARE ADDICTED TO SINGLE-USE PLASTICS
Plastic bags, coffee cups to go, plastic straws. Plastic packaging is everywhere. The idea of the plastic diet is to avoid single-use plastics as much as possible for one month. By doing so, we raise awareness and hopefully change our addiction to plastics.
Some pioneers show it is possible. Nienke Binnendijk from BlueCity has been living almost entirely “plastic-free” for about two years, while Jesse and Nicky Kroon from Het Zero Waste Project adopted a zero waste lifestyle.
Time for some self-reflection… Some measures to avoid single-use plastics are already part of my daily routine. As refill ambassador I use my BBF (Best Bottle Forever) instead of buying plastic bottles. When shopping, I try to bring my own bags and jars. These are baby steps. The amount of plastic packaging still entering my house or used on the go is considerable. Some of the groceries I buy are pre-packed, magazines come in a plastic wrapper, and almost all caring and cleaning products come in plastics. Plastic is also inside some products I use on a daily base, like facial scrubs or toothpaste.
For the first time of my life, it’s time to go on a diet. This month I will try to avoid products involving single-use plastics. That’s going to be hard, but I’m really excited to join this challenge!
READY TO START YOUR PLASTIC-FREE MONTH?
It’s the first week of September and you can still sign up for the challenge. You will receive tips and exercises to reduce the amount of single-use plastics. All communication is in Dutch. Looking for another language? Find your free tips here: