In a time when many businesses are closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Vancouver entrepreneur Andy Chou is forging ahead with his bold mission.
Chou’s dream is to make zero-waste living convenient and accessible to millions of people around the globe, and reduce consumption of single-use containers.
How? With a network of zero-waste refill stations.
While on a trip to Japan in 2019, Chou noticed there was nowhere to refill his reusable bottle – other than the hotel’s tap. The only options were plastic bottled water and beverages such as soda and juices. There were plenty of vending stations around, though.
That’s when it hit him: no matter how many reusable bottles consumers carry with them, they are useless if they are forced into consuming single-use receptacles.
It occurred to Chou that using an automated or distributed form of retail could be an effective method for getting zero-waste liquid products to customers.
“Ecologically we are devastating our planet with the sheer amount of waste we are producing. And while recycling does help, it only partially slows the damage. But the zero-waste lifestyle that a small portion of us currently live is out of reach for the vast majority of people due to time, cost, and desired quality of life. Creating this network will make it easier, less expensive, and more desirable to live waste-free than to consume single-use,” Chou says.
Designed and manufactured in Vancouver, Drinkfill and Soapstand stations can be installed in public spaces including shopping malls, grocery stores, hotels, universities and airports around the globe.
Dispensing beverages such as kombucha, cold brew coffee, dish detergent and hand soap, the machines require no human-to-human contact and could make zero-waste living the “new normal” by making it easy, affordable and convenient to refill beverages and household soaps into consumers’ own personal containers.
While Drinkfill stations are owned and operated by Drinkfill, and come ready-fitted with kombucha and cold brew coffee, Soapstand stations are owned, operated and refilled by local soap retailers, manufacturers and zero-waste entrepreneurs.
Drinkfill stations will be installed later this month in Three Bentall Centre and 312 Main‘s shared office space. There are pilot Drinkfill stations at UBC and Langara but they are not currently in operation since many classes have gone online due to COVID-19.