For the price of one bottle of water, you could get a month’s worth of filtered water and not contribute to any plastic waste. That’s the idea of Reefill, a new, Brooklyn-based startup that’s trying to build a grid of filtered water stations around the city.
Reefill, which is based at 1776NY in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, currently has eight stations in Greenwich Village. The startup is raising a seed round and has an Indiegogo campaign to build outward from the Village to the greater city. Subscribers are able to search for the nearest station (usually inside cafes or stores) and activate them with Bluetooth, filling up their water bottles with cold, filtered water.
The app shows subscribers both how much money they’ve saved by using the service and also how many water bottles they’ve saved from the landfill or recycling center.
We had some questions for cofounder and CEO Jason Pessel, who was game with some answers:
Technical.ly Brooklyn: How did you come to want to do this?
Jason Pessel: I had the idea for Reefill while walking down the street in Manhattan a few years ago when I was thirsty but realized I would not be seeing a water fountain any time soon. I was with my cousin who was particularly annoyed that we were basically forced to shell out $2 each for bottled waters.
At the time, I knew bottled water was a wasteful product but did not realize just how wasteful until researching it further. I soon found out about the bottled water lifecycle and how 50 percent of bottled water comes from the tap. Reefill was conceived as a way to remove the wasteful steps from the bottling process and provide convenient access to cold, filtered tap water without the plastic waste and wasted energy, oil, water, and CO2 that results from bottled water.
TB: Do you pay stores to have a Refill station in them? Or do they just benefit from foot traffic?
JP: We do not pay the stores. They like the increase in foot traffic and also believe in the mission of reducing plastic waste. We handle all costs associated with the installation and maintenance of the Reefill stations, including filter changes.
TB: Was there a private funding round?
JP: We are currently raising our seed round and have a committed lead investor. Up until now, Reefill has been funded by the founders, with a grant from NYU through the Office of Sustainability, and with prize money for winning first place in the New York StartUP! Business Plan competition run by the New York Public Library and Citi Foundation.
TB: Has the rise in popularity of S’well bottles impacted the business model?
JP: Any bottle works with Reefill. More people carrying S’wells that means less people buying bottled water, so we root for S’well and other bottle makers to have lots of success. For those carrying a reusable bottle, Reefill provides an easy way to fill up when on the go. With a dense network members also don’t need to worry about running low so they can also use smaller collapsible bottles that are easier to carry.