Most people know how bad plastic water bottles are for the environment. Each year, roughly 38 billion plastic water bottles of the 50 billion Americans use are not recycled and end up in landfills or on the ocean floor, where they leach dangerous chemicals into the earth and take longer than a human lifetime to decompose. Over 17 million barrels of oil are used annually to meet America’s demand for plastic water bottles and, on top of that, plastic bottles contain the chemical Bisphenol A (BPA) and PET plastic bottles contain traces of antimony, both chemicals that are hazardous to human health. Yet, Americans continue to drink water from plastic bottles in favor of tap water. Now, a New York-based startup is determined to change this behavior.
Enter Reefill with their product that will make it easy for people to fill their reusable water bottles on the go with filtered tap water. The company is introducing an app that syncs with filtered water stations in fast food restaurants and delis, and the idea and hope is to offer people a safe alternative to bottled water and cut back on plastic.
The company, founded by three friends who began working on the project in 2015 for the Think Beyond Plastic accelerator, is still in the process of raising funds to launch their product, but they are well on their way to reaching their goal of $500,000 to create a pilot network of 100 locations throughout New York City. They have already implemented a few preliminary locations through bootstrapped funds, and they are crowdfunding the rest through Indiegogo. Additionally, they’ve won grants from NYU and the 2016 New York StartUp! Business Plan Competition.
Here’s how Reefill works and how, if adapted to the mainstream, it just may be enough to curb the universal dependency on plastic water bottles. The system is activated through a mobile app and radio-frequency identification (RFID), so when you approach the station with your phone, it unlocks the device and releases filtered water into your water bottle. The app will cost just $1.99 a month, and it displays where Reefill stations are located so that you can fill up on the go. While you have the option of purchasing Reefill’s insulated water bottles with your membership, you are free to use any reusable bottle of your choice at the stations- according to Reefill, “It’s BYOWB!”
This system is not only better for the environment, but it could save consumers a lot of dough over time as well. In New York City, plastic water bottles average around $2 and overall, Americans spend $11.8 billion annually on water bottles, which is nearly 2,000 times more expensive than tap water.
Through the retention of data, the Reefill app provides many cool membership perks. It informs merchants and advertisers of the most popular places in the city to set up stations, and makes it more convenient for customers so that they don’t have to ask the people behind the counter for free tap water. It’s mutually beneficial for both parties.
Reefill members can also track how many plastic water bottles they’ve saved from landfills and how much money they are saving from not buying plastic water bottles.The ultimate goal of Reefill, say it founders, is to expand Reefill across the nation and ultimately across the globe, “making all single serve plastic bottles obsolete.” With the power of data and technology, that goal may not be too far out of reach.
For more information on Reefill or to make a contribution, visit their page on Indiegogo.