Aussie Startup Refilled Launched to Save 100m Single-Use Plastic Bottles Sold From Vending Machines

Entrepreneurs / 20th September 2023

Refilled is a new Sydney-based climate tech start-up that recently launched with two Australian customers: The University of Technology Sydney and The University of Sydney Union (USU). Refilled is on a mission to eliminate the colossal single-use plastic bottle waste caused by the $44bn vending industry by replacing as many of these machines as possible with their new BYO-Bottle system. The company hopes to capitalise on the dominant trend of reusable bottles, a market now worth $14bn, by giving people more flavour variety and nutritional options than just plain water on tap. Its ‘Refillers’ are a cross between a fridge and a giant SodaStream. They offer chilled still and sparkling drinks in a range of flavours with the ability to add optional boosters such as caffeine, vitamins, and exercise-focused nootropics.

More than 891 billion single-use plastic bottles are produced worldwide every year, and less than 20% are ever recycled, which makes vending machines a major source of plastic pollution. Refilled is on track to build and install 100 Refillers by 2024, which would eliminate upwards of 1 million single-use plastic bottles from ending up in our environment or landfills every year. It aims to eliminate 100m single-use plastic bottles by 2030. Because a single Refiller can stock 10x more beverages than a typical vending machine, it can also dramatically reduce waste and delivery emissions caused by frequent deliveries and restocking of traditional beverages.

University-based customers UTS and USU are looking to offer more sustainable flavoured drink alternatives to students that are much more affordable than the cost of standard bottled water, while chilled still water is always available for free. Refilled is tracking the number of bottles it has saved in real-time and has created reusable bottles with QR codes that can be scanned at the Refiller and used to pay for drinks — no card, phone or cash required.

To date, Refilled has raised $600k through angel investors and Melt Ventures, an impact VC Fund. Refilled is seeking an additional $1.5m in its next funding round.

Refilled founder and CEO, Ryan Nelson

“Refilled is transforming the ordinary, everyday act of drinking water into climate action. Most people have good intentions and want to do good for the planet, but not everyone can afford to buy an electric vehicle or install solar panels. Armed with just a reusable bottle and a couple of bucks, our Refillers offer an affordable, achievable way to eliminate plastic pollution. If we can replace even a fraction of drink vending machines, which are an outrageous source of plastic waste, we will stop millions of plastic bottles going to landfills.”

University of Sydney Union PresidentNaz Sharifi

“USU remains committed to a sustainable future for our members; this permeates through everything that we provide — from our events, retail and products to our student programs and facilities. As part of our ongoing efforts to expand our sustainable practices and reduce the usage of single-use plastic bottles, we are thrilled to be partnering with Refilled, who share our social, environmental, and ecological aspirations. This will allow our members access to filling stations in key locations around campus.”

Anna Chavez GM Commercial Operations, ActivateUTS / University of Technology Sydney

“As an organisation, we were proud to partner with UTS Alumni and founder Ryan Nelson, homing Refilled’s prototype in the ActivateUTS Student engagement ‘Hideout’ space, empowering students to eliminate thousands of single-use plastic bottles in its first year alone. Students loved the newly launched machine at our recent Orientation Day, offering an easy-to-use interface paired with a cost-effective and convenient product. We believe the right commercial decisions can meet the needs of the business consumer and drive a positive change towards a more sustainable world, and Refilled is a great example of this.” 

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