Could an app to find clean drinking water kill single-use plastic bottles?

An American entrepreneur believes the Tap app could beat plastic pollution by making clean drinking water easier to find.

Inspired by a bad experience drinking from an airport water fountain in the United States, serial entrepreneur Samuel Ian Rosen had an idea to make clean drinking water easier to find.

Believing that people buy bottled water because they cannot find trusted sources of drinking water, Rosen and his team built a mobile application that indexes the locations of clean drinking water around the world. 

Tap’s database of water refill stations was started by Rosen and his team, who GPS tagged the locations in their area, then relied on crowdsourcing and participating organisations to tag refill stations elsewhere.

The app, called Tap, is available globally on Android and iOS from today, with an index of 34,000 refill locations in over 30 countries. In Asia Pacific, Tap goes live with indexed locations in Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, and Australia, among other countries.

“We don’t need to buy bottled water, we just need a bottle,” Rosen told Eco-Business.

Tap allows users to filter water sources by type of refill stations and type of drinking water. The application also shows the walking time to nearby refill stations and provides directions. Image: Tap Projects Inc. 

Tap’s network of refill stations includes public water fountains, restaurants, cafes, and even natural springs. Users can search by the type of refill station, and by water type: flat, sparkling, purified, filtered, chilled and flavoured options are available. Directions and distances to the refill stations are provided.

“Most of the refill stations listed on the app provide water for free. Businesses are more than happy to give you a glass of free water just to have another person in their shop,” Rosen said.

Users can provide feedback on the quality of refill stations through the app.

Rosen said he hoped to raise awareness of the app using the #DrinkDifferent social media hashtag and start a movement of people who stop buying bottled water.

“The concept of bottled water is rapidly growing, particularly among the rising middle class in the developing world,” Rosen said. “People around the world will use Tap to find the cheapest, cleanest water, thereby decoupling our need to quench our thirst from the plastic bottle, which causes horrific pollution.”

One million water bottles are sold every minute globally, yet only 10 per cent of the world’s plastic is recycled.

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