Where can I refill my bottle?

By Ines Wynn

Backpackers of yore started the trend  to pack their own water bottle and refill it at every opportunity. It certainly is a healthy habit and good for the planet, especially in Bali where tap water is not safe to drink and potable water is sold in throw-away bottles or single-serve cups. If you think of the many discarded water bottles you encounter along the roadways, in ditches, not to mention the dump sites and landfills- it must have struck you how this kind of waste is just out of control. And these bottles or single serving cups are not biodegradable. They just linger and litter, or get washed into the oceans. For sure, they are a big part of the plastic waste problem.

Just a few statistics to jar your mind and put a damper on your happy-go-lucky days: In Bali alone, some 5 million visitors traipse through here on a yearly basis, consuming, on average 2 litres of water a day, mostly from those handy throw-away bottles you can buy anywhere. Do a quick calculation and your mind will boggle at the enormous and gargantuan mount of plastic that gets thrown away on a daily basis. The fight against plastic waste has just gotten a tad tougher, yes?

For sure, there are many concentrated and laudable efforts to reduce this type of waste. Bali is awash in beach clean-up campaigns, the Keep Bali Clean and Green crusade, and many informational and educational projects.   However, some astute people have realised that the fight is best fought at the source instead of cleaning up after the deluge.

Several eating venues in Bali have caught on and are offering free water refills to their customers if you bring your own bottle or purchase a flask at the premises. It started as a sporadic effort by some eco-conscious restaurateurs and merchants and it has gained traction, especially among the young, hip and eco-conscious visitors and expats living in Bali. More travellers demand refills instead of buying new bottles each time they need a drink.

These initiatives have now jelled into a well-run and pro-active effort to streamline the refill idea by a group of likeminded local business people who got together to create RefillMyBottle, an organisation that is in the process of creating an application with the same name that can be easily downloaded on your PC, tablet or smartphone. It is in essence an interactive map of Bali and other places in Indonesia where all locations are clearly shown that offer water refills for free or a small fee if you bring your own bottle. This group is working tirelessly to get places added to the map and their ultimate goal is to grow the refill network in SE Asia first, then worldwide. Already they have expanded beyond Indonesia and signed up locations in Vietnam and Malaysia. They canvas local businesses like restaurants, cafes, resorts, tourist venues, shops, tourist attractions and tourist service providers and induce them to provide refill stations with drinkable water.

At present, some 360 refill stations have been signed up in Bali and Lombok. More are joining on a daily basis and the map is continually updated. There is no fee to join and courtesy stickers and posters are provided to announce the presence of a refill station. Many well-known businesses like Bali Buda, Monsieur Spoon, Bali Diving Academy, Five Elements, Kumpul Co-working Space and many more, have already joined the effort.

It’s a win-win situation for both refill stations and users: Free or inexpensive drinkable water for customers, promotion value for the businesses who provide the service and for everyone the gratifying feeling that they have a very positive impact on the environment and are contributing in no small measure to the solution of plastic waste.

Businesses keen on participating in the RefillMyBottle program can easily register for free at Instalinko. Upon registration, participants receive stickers and promotional materials to showcase their involvement in the RefillMyBottle campaign across social media platforms and websites. The flexibility is in the hands of the business owner, who can choose to provide water for free or charge a nominal fee, preferably lower than store-bought bottled water. Businesses can opt for commercial water or use potable water sourced from purification or filtered water systems, such as Nazava water filters. This initiative not only promotes sustainability but also encourages businesses to take an active role in reducing plastic waste.
For those of you who want to check out the many locations or download the app, you can find it at the same website. You can also connect with RefillMyBottle on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

Presently a mobile app with basic functionality is available for Android devices in Google’s Play Store. The people at RefillMyBottle want to expand the app with better features and make it available for all phones. They are currently looking for sponsors to help create this new app and have started a crowdfunding campaign to help them cover the costs of US$6,000 in order to develop a more sophisticated and practical Refillmybottle app. The new app will make it easy for anyone to know where to refill, how many plastic bottles (and money) is saved in the process, as well as to measure impacts and connect the users. You can find more details on their fundraising page: https://www.youcaring.com/refillmybottle

The Bye-Bye Plastic Bag campaign made famous by a couple of teenage girls in Bali has now been joined by the Bye-Bye Plastic Bottle drive of the RefillMyBottle group. It creates a positive impact on the world and is a gigantic step forward in the reduction of single-use throwaway water bottles and cups. Best of all the concept is appealing to young and old eco-warriors alike. The slogan Recycle, Reuse, Reduce, Refill is becoming a stronger and more resonating mantra.