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Case Study for Reuse: REFILL.IE

Written by
Estelle Eonnet
April 16, 2021

There is one organization in Ireland that is synonymous with reuse, that is Refill.ie! Refill.ie has been in operation since 2017 and they are well on the way to realizing their ambition to have free drinking water access while outside our homes within 400m of anywhere you are in Ireland!

It all started off as a helpful TAP MAP, which allows the public to easily find locations for water refills of their reusable water bottles/cups. Over three years later and Refill.ie now boasts over 1500 locations around Ireland!

We caught up with Jennifer Corcoran from Refill.ie to see how their campaign to get Ireland hydrated and waste free is going.

What motivated Refill.ie to get off the ground?

We were motivated by this particular eye popping context, by simply reading a statistic in a national newspaper that 2.5 million plastic bottles are generated every single day in Ireland and 220,000 of those are drinking water bottles alone. The water bottles in particular struck a chord, why so many when we have some of the highest water quality standards set for any country in the world as a very privileged first world nation.

What is Refill.ie working on at the moment?

We want to highlight the simple, cost effective & convenient alternative of drinking water without single-use plastic water bottles. We have installed x5 Hydration Hubs in high footfall locations in Dublin & Cork where the public can refill for free with filtered tap water in a safe welcoming environment and we also have a one of it’s kind innovative service designed for events such as runs/food fairs etc where we provide the drinking water without any of the plastic waste normally associated with this by using our Mobile Hydration Stations and robust reusable cups which are then sterilized & reused.

Why does Ireland need Refill.ie?

Many years ago, dotted & installed around Ireland’s towns and villages were street water hydrants to help sober people up coming home from the pubs..crazy huh!!! But they did serve multiple purposes, and at Refil.ie we show that our tap water has a higher value than may be perceived, not just giving water for hydration, it helps us to try prevent one of Ireland’s current problematic waste streams and a ‘poster child’ as such for single-use plastics. Our simple motto is if the waste is not created in the first instance, then there are no waste management problems.

‘Refilling is a really great sustainable long term solution for both drinks and foods and it’s getting the push it deserves from those who know our current system is broken.'

What has been the reaction to Refill.ie by Irish people?

Our experience is really a positive story of being welcomed in a time where people already know of the common environmental issues but perhaps not the real extent of the problem, and through conversations with businesses, local authorities & communities, there is an appreciation for practical projects that can help prevent us producing so much single-use plastic waste.

A great example is the Cork City Marathon in 2019, when we saved 4,500 single-use water bottles. Pretty amazing right, and that was only 5 hours of our work through being embraced by event organizers, and participants embracing a better way to hydrate.

Why do you think Refill shops (reuse/refill) solutions are important?

Really, it’s so good to see them starting to flourish and be loved in Ireland. It’s a pretty empowering action to be able to take something you own, fill it how you please & be independent from the giants of the industry, if you wish, whose values are not necessarily aligned (or yet aligned ) with the values & beliefs on what makes our planet great & using it’s natural sustainable resources.

‘The circular system used in the past by older
generations like our grandparents, highlights the smart elders they were.’

What would you like to see as a campaign?

We need to see the quick adoption into Irish Law and implementation of the EU’s revised Drinking Water Directive (December 2020). This legislation specifically references the quality and availability of drinking water in member states, including facilitating the access to drinking water in public spaces. Member states now have 2 years to implement the requirements. We hope that this will further drive government and local authority support for an enhanced network of free drinking water locations around Ireland, be they indoor in public buildings such as libraries/civic buildings and outdoor in our towns/cities and parklands.

When you look at Paris in France and see they have free still and sparkling water (!!!) dispensers on their streets, you know we have a step or two to go yet. We wish to see the government supporting projects like ours to help become a refill nation once again.

‘Asking questions & starting off small is how we really get started. To understand that by redirecting our support away from petro-chemical companies that produce the plastics that last up to 500 years, is an important small action individually yet collectively a powerful & impactful one.’

Case Study by #breakfreefromplastic member Voice Ireland.

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