BYOB – Bring Your Own Bottle

Clean drinking Water is important, but it does not have to be packaged!

The hot 2018 summer in Europe has taught us new things: People, traveling or going to work in the heat of the city refilled their own water bottles in public or commercial places. Now friendly cafés, shops, hotels and businesses are welcoming you in to refill your water bottle. These refill stations are using their goodwill of providing free drinking water as a marketing gimmick to bring potential buyers into their shops. Why not? The cost of drinking water is negligible, at least in Europe and North America.

The situation is markedly different in countries of the Third World, where access to clean water is important, can be difficult and where water-borne diseases constitute a serious thread to health. In these countries, the need for proper drinking water is high. This need is satisfied by the big food companies which then sell it as bottled water which ends up as waste.

Reducing Plastic Waste

Refilling your own water bottle instead of buying water sold in plastic bottles would reduce the worldwide plastic waste significantly. The fact, that plastic waste is a huge worldwide problem is without question. Refill water (bring-your-own-bottle, BYOB) would be an important step into the right direction. An organization calculated for Great Britain only, If just one in ten Brits refilled once a week, we’d have 340 million less plastic bottles a year in circulation!

The commercial Side

Food companies (Nestlé, Danone, and others) make a killing selling bottled water. The water itself is very cheap, the sales price includes quality control, packaging, transport, storage, advertising, etc. and a sizeable profit. But this profit does not have to depend on plastic. Water fountains can be expensive to install and maintain, it is an investment. It is perceivable that – instead of plastic-bottled water – the companies operate refill stations, instead, a revenue stream that could easily replace the revenues from selling packaged drinking water. Their operation would then also include the quality control, maintenance of the units and so forth.

Stations for personal use (1-2 liter) could be placed in shops, but also in busy public places such as bus- or railway stations, sport stadiums and government offices. Refill stations for household quantities, which are filled into jerrycans could be positioned outside supermarkets, convenience stores or wherever there is easy access for motorized transport.

Of course, someone has to pay for it. But how? The modern water fountain would most likely be automatic, no personal service, no cash transactions. And whatever the sales price is, it will be comparatively small amounts. These could be paid with some form of e-money prevalent in the region. Or a subscription system, whereby the automate reads a QR-code or RFID-tag on the bottle and charges the thirsty customer at the end of the month.

Conclusion: Why don’t we start right now?

What is holding us back? The technology is there (water fountains, payment systems), there is a solid business model and good image advertising (“We are green, clean, cool…”). And it is good: Less pollution, less trucking of water bottles though the country, less waste and still clean and affordable water for everybody.

Think about it next time, when you are about to buy water. Ask your dealer why they do not have a water fountain, why they are still selling water in bottles!