Sydney-based climate tech start-up Refilled is taking aim at the $44 billion vending machine industry's plastic waste problem with its innovative BYO-Bottle system. Launching with two major educational institutions, the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) and University of Sydney Union (USU), Refilled aims to capitalise on the booming $14 billion reusable bottle market.
Their solution? 'Refillers', which are essentially a fusion of a vending machine, fridge and a SodaStream, offer consumers a variety of chilled, flavoured beverages with optional boosters like caffeine and vitamins.
Globally, over 891 billion single-use plastic bottles are produced yearly and fewer than 20% are recycled. Refilled's ambitious roadmap includes installing 100 Refillers by 2024, potentially preventing more than 1 million single-use plastic bottles from ending up in landfills or the natural environment annually.
By 2030, the start-up targets to eliminate 100 million such bottles. Another perk of Refillers is that their capacity is 10x greater than conventional vending machines, which could substantially reduce waste and delivery emissions from frequent restocking.
For university-based clientele like UTS and USU, Refilled's system is an attractive proposition. It offers more affordable, sustainable flavoured beverages for students while keeping still water available at no cost.
The start-up is also employing real-time tracking to measure the number of bottles saved and has rolled out reusable bottles featuring QR codes. These QR codes allow for a cashless, cardless, and phoneless payment system, simplifying the buying process.
As of now, Refilled has raised $600,000 from angel investors and Melt Ventures, an impact-focused VC fund. The company is looking to secure an additional $1.5 million in its next funding round to accelerate its mission.
In an era where sustainability has transitioned from being a buzzword to a business imperative, Refilled is well-positioned to disrupt the beverage-vending landscape. With universities as their launchpad, the start-up is not only tapping into a captive audience that is increasingly eco-conscious but also establishing a model that can be scaled across various sectors.
As Refilled gears up for its next funding round, all eyes will be on how this ambitious Aussie start-up can turn the tide on plastic waste while quenching our thirst in a more sustainable way.
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