In this episode of the Social Lights Podcast, podcast host and Social Mediology founder Kate vanderVoort chats with Jill Ford, Founder of Refill New Zealand.
About Jill and Refill NZ
Jill originally worked in the Social Marketing industry. On one visit to the UK, she was involved with a plastic pollution campaign—which was run by the same people who set up Refill in the UK. She admits that though she was aware of the plastic problem, she was not that aware of how bad the problem was.
Upon returning home, Jill decided to set up Refill New Zealand—an organization basically focused on promoting the refilling of water instead of using single-use plastic bottles. Thanks to Jill’s efforts, Refill went from initially relying entirely on fundraising from film nights to later receiving support from the Auckland Health Board and other House organizations.
BIG IDEA 1
“Single-use water bottles are a big issue.” (2:50)
Potable water isn’t really a main issue in New Zealand, as tap water is deemed safe to drink. In fact, it is common for New Zealand cafes to have water outside, and bars are required to have water out as well.
The issue lies with the 828 million single-use water bottles thrown away in New Zealand every year. “If you want to visualize that, that’s equivalent to about 164 Olympic-sized swimming pools,” Jill shares. That’s a lot of plastic—plastic that gets into the waterways, gets broken down, and eaten by marine life. Reports show that sales of bottled water have increased by 25% in the last two years—and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
According to Iceland research, over 60% of international visitors said that they bought more bottled water when they were traveling compared to when they were home. Over 70% also said that they didn’t trust tap water when they were traveling.
“There was nothing really that was about actually stopping it at source and also getting people to change their behavior.” With Refill, Jill hopes to see all—or at least 50% of all—sports fields and children’s playground with water fountains. She also hopes for water to be accessible on the street for when people are on the go, and she hopes for there to be a big reduction in bottled water and soft drinks purchased.
BIG IDEA 2
“What started out as an environmental campaign is now an environmental and health campaign.” (5:39)
“Like Australia, we have a big obesity problem,” Jill shares, “and a lot of that is due to the high sugar intake of which soft drinks are a big component.” Most soft drinks, of course, are sold in single-use plastic bottles.
There are not too many water fountains around in New Zealand, not to mention the fact that soft drinks are cheaper compared to bottle water. Health organizations could see that being involved with Refill could not increase the accessibility of water for individuals on the go, but ultimately encourage individuals to drink more water as well.
With Refill, both locals and tourists can enter any café, bar, or establishment with a Refill NZ sticker on their window—which easily signifies that people can enter and refill their water bottles without feeling compelled to purchase anything. “We’re just trying to make it easy for people to get involved, and most of these tourist places will already be providing water anyway. It’s not that they’re doing anything different—but they’re just promoting.
BIG IDEA 3
“It’s an action people can take.”
Refill works hand in hand with the tourism industry’s campaign of reducing the carbon footprint, and asking the country’s visitors to take care of their environment and culture.
Apart from the tourists, Refill is something easy for tourism operators to be involved with as well. From bungee jumping and kayaking organizations to hotels, water is slowly but surely being made available to the public.
“The big thing for us is just trying to get across to international visitors that you can drink tap water in New Zealand—and we’d appreciate really it if you did instead of buying bottled water.”
You can find Jill Ford and more about Refill NZ:
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