Last week it was Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE),a huge gathering for electronic music and its industry. With 450.000 visitors spread over 1.000 events at 200 locations, Amsterdam turned into a crazy place for five days and nights. One event was titled ADE #PlasticFreeParty. According to the organizers “the evening will be boasting a Green Innovators Showcase where the most ground-breaking plastic-alternative companies will demonstrate what the future of a #PlasticFreeParty can look like.” This sounded like the ideal opportunity for us to meet like-minded people. But was it?
DRINKS SOLD IN CANS
As Refill Ambassadors, we expected a genius tap system crowded with visitors refilling their cups. This wasn’t the case. There was a small dance floor. At the bar most drinks were sold in cans, including sparkling and still water. Okey it’s not plastic, but not very sustainable either, as it requires unnecessary production processes and transport. Wine was served in real wine glasses. For those who wished a water refill, the toilets were the place to go. A bit disappointing.
GOOD MUSIC, BUT WHAT ABOUT THE THEME?
The second room was the so called Green Innovators Showcase. There was one table with bowls and ashtrays by PuriFungi. Interesting stuff, as they are produced with cigarette butts and mycelium. From waste to products!
But apart from the fungi-table, 3 signposts and a screen with a QR code, we could not discover anything else that contributed to the #PlasticFreeParty theme. Other visitors did not seem to care. They told us to haven chosen this party because it was cheap, or because tickets were still available, unlike most other ADE events. Nevertheless, we had a nice evening with good music. We do hope the next year’s edition will have more innovations on showcase and a real #plasticfreeparty vibe.
MORE OPPORTUNITIES FOR A PLASTICFREE PARTY
What kind of products or services would you like to have at a #PlasticFreeParty? Please leave your comments below.
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.
Yes, tap water in Italy is save to drink. Italy ranks fifth in Europe for tap water quality . All tap water in Italy is chlorinated with the minimum required level being 0.2 mg / liter , or in exceptional cases there will be a non potable sign. In this blog we explain more about tap water in Italy.
ITALIAN MINERAL WATER IS SOLD AROUND THE WORLD
Italy is renowned for its many famous mineral waters. However, this has resulted in the rise of water brands. For example San Pellegrino or San Benedetto. Thanks to advertisements, the export of bottled Italian mineral water has increased over the past decade . Main export markets are the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany and France. Pretty crazy to transport water all over the world, right?!
MINERAL WATER IN ITALY
Italians are used to buy six-packs of 1.5 litre plastic bottles of water from the supermarket. Instead of buying bottled mineral water, you can just fill it for free on the street. Interestingly, Italy is full of ancient water fountains. They can be incredibly beautiful, so bring your water bottle and camera! Some public areas have paid refill stations, that serve filtered tap water for 5 to 10 eurocents.
TAP WATER IN ITALY – BARS & RESTAURANTS
Bars and restaurants most likely serve bottled water. We recommend you to just try and ask tap water. No one usually does and your waiter might not want to bring it to you, but you can ask for it. . Luckily, some restaurants already serve chilled, filtered tap water (for free or for a small fee). Moreover, Refill Italia tries to map all these refill stations, by adding them to the free Refill app. You can also add yours!
TAP WATER IN ITALY – USEFUL LINKS
Refill Italia – Ovunque vedi l’adesivo Refill puoi fare il pieno di acqua
Can I drink the tap water in Valencia? Yes, you can. The tap water in Valencia may have a strange taste but it is perfectly safe to drink.
WHY DOES TAP WATER IN VALENCIA TASTES STRANGE?
The water in Valencia is a hard water, due to the amount of calcium and salt, that find their way into the supply from the mountains. Furthermore, the tap water is filtered and chlorinated. Chlorine, a very common disinfectant, is used frequently in water treatment plants in Spain. And it makes water taste and smell differently.
WHAT ARE MY ALTERNATIVES?
You can just drink the tap water if you’re not bothered by the taste! If you do not like the taste of the tap water, there are a few options.
Many locals and tourists buy bottles water. It’s expensive and causes lots of plastic waste! Not the preferred option…
Look for filtered, refigerated water fountains. Now there are only three of them, located in the city’s busiest spots: the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, on the Malva-Rosa seafront, and in the City of Arts and Sciences, in the Turia. Hopefully more of these fountains will be installed soon.
Use a water filter. This can be a simple jar; a filter connected to your valve; or something installed to your household’s water system. Carbon filters (e.g. Brita, Tapp Water) are quite cheap and very efficient at reducing or eliminating chlorine.
Our favourite: go to one the many natural springs in the mountains. Many villages in the hills around Valencia have one. Bring as many empty jars as you can and sit down for a meditative refill session!
We’d like to share some background information about these natural springs. The so called ‘aguaderos’ collected the water from the springs, filled the carts with pitchers and went down to the city and the villages to distribute it from door to door. The trade of aguadero was perpetuated until recent times, when cars were replaced by trucks or vans. However, many ancient water fountains still exist in the mountain villages around Valencia (and in many other areas in Spain) and the water tastes delicious.
TAP WATER IN VALENCIA – YOUR OPINION
What do you think about the taste of tap water in Valencia? How does it compare to your home country? Leave us a comment below.
Chlorine and chloramine are added to tap water to make it safe for drinking. They have no negative health impact, but they affect the taste and odor. As a result, many people buy bottled water. What a waste! With a small and cheap water filter, the chlorine taste and odor is reduced to almost zero. Refill Ambassadors Félice and Hella tested a BRITA filter in the South of France.
How does it work? We could not find much information about the filter itself, except that it is a carbon filter system. The BRITA water filter looks like a simple plastic jug. You fill it with tap water and wait approximately 30 seconds. Pour the filtered water in your glass and enjoy!
What about the taste? We are very positive. The chlorine taste and odor are close to zero and the water is softer.
How much does it cost? This depends on the model and the country where you buy it. For example the “Brita® Everyday Water Pitcher” costs 35 dollars, including one filter. The filter needs to be replaced after every +/- 150 liter or 450 liter if you choose the long-lasting filter. Check out the prices for filters here. In total, you’ll spend a few cents per liter.
What about the environment? By using a water filter, you help prevent plastic waste (compared to buying single-use plastic bottles). According to the BRITA website, 1.800 plastic bottles are replaced per year if you use a Brita® system vs. buying bottled water. Almost all BRITA filter cartridges are recyclable (we advise you to choose the long lasting filter). Some models provide a sticker calendar indicator when to replace the filter. All products are BPA-free.
MORE ABOUT BRITA
BRITA was founded in 1966 by Heinz Hankammer in Taunusstein, Germany. Since then, it has grown to a worldwide firm with almost 2.000 employees.
LEARN MORE ABOUT WATER FILTERS
To conclude: we think this is a cheap and simple solution for countries where tap water is potable but not very tasty. But BRITA is not the only option. Read our blog about TAPP.
We’re eager to learn more about water filters and other brands. Please share your experience with us.
EARTH is known for its bottled water, coffee and tea. You might be wondering: “Bottled water? I thought Refill Ambassadors is promoting tap water.” Yes we do. But EARTH has an interesting story, which we’d like to share with you. By selling bottled water, tea and coffee, they have been able to donate over €1.5 million to various water projects. We interviewed co-founder Patrick de Nekker.
INTERVIEW WITH PATRICK DE NEKKER, CO-FOUNDER EARTH
When and how did you start EARTH?
In 2007, together with Henk Witteveen I founded EARTH Water/ EARTH Concepts. The idea was (and still is) to ‘sell water for water’. 100% of our net profit is invested in sustainable water systems around the world. Later we added EARTH Coffee and EARTH Tea, in response to our customers’ demands. We also experiment with EARTH Cacao, depending on supplies.
Where do you source your products?
Our water is from a small water source named Anl’eau, located in the province of Drenthe (the Netherlands). EARTH Tea comes from Sri Lanka, EARTH Coffee is from Nicaragua, Guatamala and Peru and our cocoa from Cameroon. On the latter we hardly make money as profits remain overseas.
Where are your products sold?
We are a B2B brand. Our products are sold in restaurants, hotels, at events and in the catering industry. Plus in some large chains like Starbucks and IKEA. Our water is also sold in China.
Your water is transported from the Netherlands to China?
Yes. You can debate whether that is good or bad. Quality of tap water in China is not always good, so there is a demand for our water. And we want to earn as much money as possible to donate to people who are in need of clean water.
That is an interesting discussion indeed. We will not go into details now.
TAP WATER VS. BOTTLED WATER
Another question: tap water in the Netherlands is of really good quality. You sell bottled water. And you use plastic packaging. Can you explain why?
The way we look at it: preferably drink tap water. If that’s not possible then drink EARTH WATER. Our bottled water is useful in places that do not have tap water available, like outdoor festivals. And for people who do not trust tap water.
Plastic has many advantages and recycling possibilities. But it has received negative input because it has entered our food chain due to human behaviour. Our packaging is made out of 100% recycled PET, and we use Tetra Pak’s. We’ve been offering recycled PET bottles for 10 years, Coca-Cola just started. Many companies now donate 5 or 10 cents to charities, while we make a 100% donation of our profits (after deducting our fixed costs). As a result, people support our brand.
15 CENT DEPOSIT ON SMALL PLASTIC BOTTLES
Nice to hear people support your brand. However, many people support Coca-Cola too. Their revenues keep growing, also in bottled water. We want your opinion on something else. From 2021, a 15 cent deposit will be introduced on small plastics bottles in the Netherlands*. What do you think about this?
I’m a supporter of deposit systems. But I doubt deposit of 15 cents will make a difference. With €0,50 for sure, but will you stand in the queue at McDonalds to get a €0,15 refund for your bottle? In the end it’s about clients demands. I would also be in favour of heavier fines if you litter the streets. Comparable to using a mobile phone on a bicycle. Then people don’t do it anymore.
Interesting thinking. Hopefully the 15 cent deposit system will already be effective, but this we can only found out in the future. We’d like to ask you something else. Not all your ‘water products’ is packaged. You also offer water tap systems with filters. Can you tell us more about those?
Our tap systems filter and chill tap water. They have a luxurious appearance. Venues also donate to our water project ‘6 Mile’ when using our taps. It’s like a subscription model.
Our clients can decide for themselves how much they want to charge their customers for consumption. It raises interesting questions like “How much extra value does a filter provide?” Bottled water in general has a very low purchase price. And it’s being sold for a high price. For example in Dutch restaurants you sometimes pay 6 euros for a 1 L water bottle. I have some difficulty with this.
Yes we totally agree! 6 euros for 1 L water really is a lot!
FUTURE VISIONS ON BOTTLED DRINKS
We could talk for another hour but it’s time to wrap up. Is there something else you would like to share with our readers?
Yes! There are many debates about bottled water. But I think it is important to treat water similar to sodas. You don’t want to force people to buy a Coke because they can’t buy water in a plastic bottle.
And perhaps we should tackle issues on a different level. Like a ban on all packaged drinks. Then we may start to think in completely different business cases. For example fill your own cup with Red Bull via a machine.
That will be interesting. We’re sure you’ll be creative enough to continue with EARTH Concepts even in a world without packaging. Thank you for your honesty Patrick and good luck with EARTH.
*the 15 cent deposit on small plastics bottles is somewhat different for the catering industry, because they are not forced to return their bottles. One can say; go to the supermarket to get your 15 cent. And that is the bottleneck is this discussion.
CONNECT WITH EARTH
Our interview with Patrick was inspiring. Things are not always black and white. Doing good sometimes means making sacrifices. Without the sales of bottled water (and tea and coffee), Patrick and his team would not have been able to donate >1.5 million to projects that are so desperately needed.
Do you have questions for Patrick and his team? Or do you want to share your vision on the EARTH concept? Leave your comment behind or get in touch with email@example.com
Is Santiago de Compostela tap water safe to drink? Yes, it’s very safe! Last month, I walked a part of the Camino del Norte (the northern Spain coastal route). We were amazed by the beautiful scenery, but also by the large number of refill stations. And the taste of tap water was quite good. However, some water fountains were out of order and we got a bit thirsty! In addition, many hostels were closed due to Covid-19 (for the entire year). Therefore we’d like to share some tips with you.
TIPS TO STAY HYDRATED
How much water should you bring? Take enough water with you on your walks but don’t overdo it. It’s just too heavy! We took 1 L per person. This was enough with the exception of two stages (day 4: from Deba to Markina–Xemein; and day 5: from Markina-Xemein to Guernika). So bring a bit more on remote routes.
Pay attention that water fountains are suitable for consumption. “No potable” indicates that you cannot drink the water.
Very important: frequently drink small amounts to stay well hydrated.
Make sure your drinking equipment is easy to clean.
Bring a lightweight thermos flask. Cold water is a big reward when walking 8 hours a day.
Make sure you know roughly where you will be able to refill. Many public fountains are listed on the water refill app Closca. You can also ask the friendly locals for help. ‘Where can I refill my water bottle?’ = Non bete dezaket ur botila (in Basque) / ¿Dónde puedo rellenar mi botella de agua? (in Spanish)
Note: we walked the northern coastal route (from Irun to Güemes). We brought our own tent and camping equipment. This came in handy as many hostels were closed due to Covid-19. We heard from other pilgrims that facilities on the Camino Francés are generally better (including food, lodging and water fountains), but we do not know about possible changes due to Covid-19.
ABOUT THE CAMINO DE SANTIAGO / WAY OF ST. JAMES
Each year thousands of pilgrims walk the Camino de Santiago (also known as Way of St. James). This route is a network of pilgrims’ ways or pilgrimages leading to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, northwestern Spain.
The Camino Francés (870 km) is by far the most popular route. It starts in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (France) and passes Pamplona, Logroño, Burgos and León. Hostels or monasteries are located about every four to ten kilometres.
The Camino Portugués is the second most popular way. The route starts in Lisbon or Porto. From Porto there are two options: the Camino Central (241 km) and the Camino Costal (265 km).
The Camino del Norte (the one we did) is an 817 km coastal route from Irun (Basque country) along the northern coastline of Spain. The route passes through San Sebastian, Bilbao, Santander and Oviedo. It is less crowded and the hikes can be challenging. Hostels are 20 to 35 kilometres apart.
SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE!
Do you have tips for other pilgrims? How much water should they take? What other gear do they need to bring? And which hostels are closed due to Covid-19? Please share your tips.
Is it safe to drink tap water in Spain? Yes! At least 99.5% of all public tap water in Spain is safe to drink. According to a recent study, Seville has the best tap water of all big cities in Spain. Do people – locals and travellers – actually drink from the tap in Seville (in Spanish: agua de grifo)? And where can you refill? That’s what our Ambassadors Hella and Michal are trying to find out. Time for a quick update from Seville, Spain.
DO PEOPLE DRINK TAP WATER IN SEVILLE?
So apparently tap water in Seville is the best in Spain. We don’t know if this is true, but we agree that Seville’s tap water is good compared to other places we visited. It has a slight chlorine taste, but one quickly get used to this.
Many people seem to drink tap water at home or in the hostel, but they buy bottled water in restaurants or when on the go. These insights were confirmed by employees from several venues. Still, some people choose not to drink the tap water, like Monica (tourist from Northern Ireland): “I feel bad about buying plastic bottles, but I really don’t like the taste of tap water here.”
PLASTIC BOTTLES & REFILL PLACES IN SEVILLE
What do we see on the streets? Our observations:
Single-use plastic water bottles can be found on every corner: in the grocery store, kiosk, tourist shop and ho(s)tel. Even so claimed eco-friendly venues usually sell single-use plastic bottles. Read the next blog for some found some positive exceptions.
Most restaurants and bars serve water in single-use plastic bottles, unless one specifically asks for tap water. Note: Andalusian cafés and bars are required by law to provide free drinking water to customers (as part of a regional government plan to improve the population’s health).
There is no deposit on plastic water bottles (only on >20 litre gallons).
Some venues (usually more luxurious) offer glass bottled water.
There are bars and restaurants with a tap water jug and glasses available for self-service. If not, you can ask for it. A few bars serve cold tap water.
Public drinking fountains can be found in many squares and public spaces, also in touristy areas. These fountains have signposts indicating it’s safe to drink. The public drinking fountains are sometimes hard to spot, and sometimes unsuitable for bottle refills.
PLASTIC BOTTLES FOR SALE ON EVERY CORNER
Many tourists buy single-use plastic water bottles out of convenience. You can find them on any street corner in town, for usually €1,- (for 0,5 L). Hostel staff and shop workers stated they sell a lot more water bottles in summer, when it gets really hot. In supermarket the water is cheaper, around €0,45 for 0,5L (cold water). Prices for large bottles can go down to €0,65,- for 5L (unchilled).
Overall, we think Seville has decent tap water, so whenever you’re visiting this beautiful city, ask for agua de grifo! If you want cold water, you still have to buy plastic bottles in most bars, restaurants or kiosks. We see a gap for cold water refill stations, and an overview of all refill points. In addition, the taste of tap water can be improved by using filters. We are going to test a filter for our next blog, so stay tuned!
We’re thrilled to announce our upcoming trip to Andalucia, Spain! Research will be conducted from mid-November to mid-December and includes the cities Malaga, Granada, Cordoba and Sevilla. The goal of this trip is to analyse existing water refill infrastructures, future challenges and opportunities.
REFILL STATION PILOT
Besides our research we we will approach eco-friendly businesses: ho(s)tels, shops, cafés, restaurants and tour operators to conduct a pilot. This means they become a refill station for a couple of weeks. They will offer water refills to customers and/or passengers, for free or for a small fee. Hereby they help to save single-use plastics. We will add the venue to two refill apps (Refill and Tap) and help them with in-store communication. And hopefully they want to continue after the pilot ends.
This will be an interesting opportunity for venues to reduce their footprint, as well as engage with the community and attract new customers.
IS TAP WATER IN SPAIN SAFE TO DRINK?
Nowadays, 99,5% of tap water in Spain is safe to drink. However, bottled water consumption in Spain has grown to around 6-8 billion plastic bottles in 2017. Most people do not like tap water due to its chlorine taste. We will tackle this problem by using the TAPP2 water filter to improve the taste of tap water. This is the World’s First Biodegradable Smart Water Filter.
HELP US SPREAD THE #REFILLUTION IN SPAIN
Do you know a place in Sevilla, Granada or Malaga or surrounding areas that we can approach for a pilot to become a water refill station? Please send us a message. We are looking for eco-friendly: