Refilled to save 100m single-use plastic bottles

Refilled, a new Sydney-based climate tech start-up on a mission to eliminate the single-use plastic bottle waste caused by the vending industry, has launched this week with two Australian customers – The University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and The University of Sydney Union (USU). 

Refilled is on a mission to eliminate the single-use plastic bottle waste by replacing as many vending machines as possible with its new BYO-Bottle system. 

The company hopes to capitalise on the dominant trend of reusable bottles, a market now worth $14bn, by giving people more flavour variety and nutritional options than plain water on tap. 

The company’s Refillers are a cross between a fridge and a giant Soda Stream. They offer chilled still and sparkling drinks in a range of flavours with the ability to add optional boosters such as caffeine, vitamins and exercise-focused nootropics. 

According to the company, more than 891 billion single-use plastic bottles are produced worldwide every year and less than 20 per cent are ever recycled, which makes vending machines a significant source of plastic pollution. 

Refilled is on track to build and install 100 machines by 2024, eliminating over one million single-use plastic bottles from ending up in the environment or landfills yearly. The company aims to eliminate 100m single-use plastic bottles by 2030. 

Because a single Refiller can stock ten times more beverages than a typical vending machine, it can dramatically reduce waste and delivery emissions caused by frequent deliveries and restocking of traditional drinks. 

University-based customers UTS and USU are looking to offer more sustainable flavoured drink alternatives to students that are much more affordable than the cost of a standard bottle of water, while chilled still water is always available for free. 

Refilled is tracking the number of bottles it has saved in real-time and has created reusable bottles with QR codes that can be scanned at the Refiller and used to pay for drinks with no card, phone or cash required. 

Refilled has raised $600k through angel investors and Melt Ventures, an impact VC Fund to date. Refilled is seeking an additional $1.5m in its next funding round. 

Refilled founder and CEO Ryan Nelson said, “Refilled is transforming the ordinary, everyday act of drinking water into climate action. Most people have good intentions and want to do good for the planet, but not everyone can afford to buy an electric vehicle or install solar panels. 

“Armed with just a reusable bottle and a couple of bucks, our Refillers offer an affordable, achievable way to eliminate plastic pollution. If we can replace even a fraction of drinks vending machines, which are an outrageous source of plastic waste, we will stop millions of plastic bottles going to landfill.”

University of Sydney Union president Naz Sharifi added, “USU remains committed to a sustainable future for our members. This permeates through everything that we provide – from our events, retail and products to our student programs and facilities. 

“As part of our ongoing efforts to expand our sustainable practices and to reduce the usage of single-use plastic bottles, we are thrilled to be partnering with Refilled, who share our social, environmental, and ecological aspirations. This will allow our members access to filling stations in key locations around campus.” 

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