2.4 million tons of PET plastic are discarded every year and 27-41% of them came from plastic bottles. Even progressive states such as California recycle only about 40% of their plastic bottles every year, while Americans, on average, only recycle about 6%.
Through our research, we discovered that people wouldn't recycle their plastic bottles unless it was more convenient and cost-effective for them to do so. How do we create a system that helps them save money and time while reducing or even eliminating the use and waste of plastic bottles?
What it Does
The Let's Water system is comprised of Let's Water stations placed in high foot-traffic areas and a mobile app.
Let's Water encourages users to reuse their bottles by providing a platform that dispenses drinks and proprietary, 100% post-recycled Let's Water bottles. Users can use their own bottles at the drink dispenser and pay retail price for the drinks, or create an account to purchase a $1 Let's Water bottle to buy drinks and refills at a discounted price. They will also gain access to various incentives and an interface where they can see how they are making an environmental impact.
When the user returns the bottle, they can purchase a new one for 50 cents. If they lose the bottle, they pay full price ($1). This way, we can compete with bottled drinks.
We can partner with college stores and local businesses to provide incentives in the form of credits toward various products and services.
We can also gather data on what kinds of drinks/combinations people buy and where, and how often they refill their bottles relative to their location.
How do we plan to scale?
We'd like to start out at small, closed systems like college campuses and event venues. This way, we can learn how Let's Water can be improved by observing who our core demographics are, how foot traffic flows, whether our incentives work, and how we can better tailor those incentives toward specific groups of people. After gathering data and refining our system, we plan to expand to gas stations and large retail chains like Walmart.
Designed to Scale
Our machines are designed in such a way that companies like Coca-Cola and Pepsi can brand our system with their products.
We also envision partnering with entertainment and lifestyle companies to create incentives for users who would feel more motivated to use our service if they could receive credits toward a product or service of their choice. (For example, 50 refills = a free month of Xbox Live/donation to charity/free bike-sharing pass.)
(This is because people don't use the systems in place that already monetize used plastic. It's harder to motivate people to gather 50+ plastic bottles for a small sum of money than it is to convince them to use a convenient service in order to gain more access to a product that they already enjoy using.)
How did we test this?
We created a mockup of the machine and interface and the mobile interface, and tested them on college students on campuses.