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Reefill: Ditch bottled water for good

A network of cold, filtered water stations in local businesses around town providing a convenient, eco-friendly bottled water alternative

Photo of Jason Pessel
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Reefill is a solution to the economic and environmental problems caused by bottled water and unrecyclable bottle caps and aims to reduce the 38 billion plastic water bottles that Americans send to our landfills and oceans each year. Today, if consumers want water on the go, their only option is to purchase a $2 single-use bottled water. But this $2 product is often just glorified tap water and has an enormous negative impact on the environment. Reefill provides unlimited and convenient access to tap water free of charge, and for those who crave cold, filtered water (similar to bottled water), Reefill customers can get unlimited and convenient access for an entire month for the cost of just one bottled water

    

Reefill is a dense network of tap water refill stations in urban areas where consumers can conveniently fill their reusable bottles on the go. Using the Reefill app, consumers find the nearest station, which are in local businesses, such as coffee shops and bakeries.  They can then fill up with tap water at no cost or, if they pay a $1.99 monthly fee, use the app to activate the station’s cold, filtered water dispenser via Bluetooth and fill their bottle in seconds. Paying members can also take advantage of the Reefill app’s additional features, such as tracking water consumed and the amount of money and plastic bottles they have saved as well as receiving discounts from participating businesses.  And with each use by a paying member, safe water is provided to someone in the developing world through our partnership with Water.org.  Reefill stations are equipped to dispense carbonated water as well which will allow for additional significant reductions in single use plastic bottle waste.


The businesses that serve as water station hosts are enthusiastic about the increased foot traffic and free advertising. Neighboring businesses already host ATM and lottery machines to drive foot traffic and Reefill provides similar benefits. The Reefill stations are installed by professionals at no cost to the local business, and Reefill provides all maintenance. Stations are cleaned by Reefill personnel regularly and are equipped with UV sanitization, which kills germs and bacteria in the dispensing area. Aside from minimal space requirements (units are located on countertops or mounted to walls), local businesses have no costs associated with participation in the network.  


In late 2016, Reefill launched a pilot network around New York University, which provided grant funding and has purchased memberships for the 2017 incoming freshmen.  Reefill recently launched a crowdfunding campaign and pre-sold $34,000 in memberships to a future NYC network.  The campaign generated substantial media interest, including a NowThis News piece (goo.gl/xkL8Cz) that got over 2.7 million views.  Reefill won first place and a $15,000 prize in the 2016 New York StartUp! Competition, run by the New York Public Library and Citi Foundation, took part in Think Beyond Plastic’s 2015 accelerator class, is an affiliate company of the XRC Labs accelerator, and is currently incubated at 1776's Brooklyn campus.

Idea Title

Reefill: fill your bottle, not the landill

Company / Organization Name

Reefill

Website

www.reefill.com

Where are you / your team located?

New York City, NY, USA

How does this Idea redesign unrecyclable small format plastic items that often end up as waste?

Last year, Americans spent $21 billion on bottled water, and consumed 50 billion single-use plastic bottles and unrecyclable bottle caps. Although 83% of Americans drink bottled water, 39% know it harms the environment and are looking for an alternative. Reefill provides that alternative through a network of tap water refill stations and is poised to dramatically reduce the amount of waste attributable to small format plastic packaging.

Which use cases does your Idea apply to?

Reefill reduces the consumption of single-use plastic bottles and their caps, addressing use cases like Trevor & Benjamin and Carmen. New parents like Trevor & Benjamin buy bottled water for their children due to concerns about water quality and sanitation. Reefill provides a high quality, sanitary alternative without plastic waste. Hotel owners like Carmen face waste removal costs for guests’ bottled water use. Instead, guests can use Reefill memberships for the duration of their stay.

In what geographical context or area does your Idea plan to operate / solve?

Reefill currently operates a pilot network in New York City’s Greenwich Village and is expanding to a 100-station network throughout the city this year. From there, Reefill will expand to dense, walkable cities in the US and abroad.

How do you envision scaling up your Idea?

We are currently raising a $500k seed round to expand to a 100-station network in NYC. We have a lead investor and more than half of the funds committed. The biggest obstacle to success is convincing more consumers to carry reusable bottles, though this behavior change has already started with many universities and cities banning bottled water. A majority of consumers also report they would be more likely to carry a reusable bottle if there were more places to refill.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Full-scale roll-out: You have developed a pilot, tested, and analyzed the impact of that pilot as it pertains to the problem scope. You are ready to expand the pilot significantly and begin to scale.

Please describe how becoming a Top Idea and working with the Think Beyond Plastics Accelerator Program will help to accelerate your solution.

We plan to add 100 locations around NYC in 2018 and becoming a Top Idea and joining the accelerator will help us achieve this goal. The financial support and mentorship offered will also help us expand the Reefill network outside of New York more quickly. Our past experiences in the Think Beyond Plastic and XRC Labs accelerators and 1776 incubator have taught us that the insights and support of fellow innovators and mentors are invaluable in scaling our solution.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

CEO Jason Pessel began developing the business model as an MBA student at NYU Stern, from which he graduated in 2015. He was horrified by NYC trash cans overflowing with bottled water waste and wanted to create an easier solution for filling his reusable bottle on a hot summer day. In late 2015, Reefill participated in the Think Beyond Plastic accelerator and took the first steps toward turning this business plan into a reality. Think Beyond Plastic CEO Daniella Russo remains a key advisor.

Tell us about your work experience

Jason has a BA from Yale, an MBA from NYU and 11 years of experience at a management consulting firm. Jason’s Co-Founders Patrick Connorton and Andrew Betlyon have experience in law and design.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

Delaware C-Corp

6 comments

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Photo of Andrew
Team

This would be great for people and the environment, but why would businesses such as juice bars and coffee shops offer this? What could they get out of it apart from lost sales?

Photo of Jason Pessel
Team

Hi Andrew,
Great question, and one of our first steps was to confirm that host locations would be interested. We set up a pilot network around the Village last year and found businesses to be generally supportive and eager to take part. In just this small area we had 13 businesses sign an agreement for a station in their store. The coffee shops and juice bars often focus on sustainability and are excited about the increase in foot traffic as they look to convert eco-conscious Reefill users into new customers.
Jason

Photo of Kate Rushton
Team

Hi Jason,

Did the juice bars find that people came in to just refill water or did they also purchase additional items?

What was the ratio between paying customers and people refilling with tap water?


Can you explain a bit more about how this idea can be implemented at scale? What would need to happen for this design to be brought to market at a larger scale? What would it take for this idea to integrate at the scale of implementation you are aiming for?

Photo of Jason Pessel
Team

Hi Kate,

At this time we have a pilot network and are just starting to compile those stats. But we are gearing up to add 90 more locations at the end of the year as we close on financing and from there we aim to expand rapidly. The technology (app, backend, and reefill stations) can scale easily to any market but we need additional staff to sign on host businesses and coordinate installation and maintenance in each area.

Let me know if that does not answer your questions!

Jason

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