Western Europe has some of the cleanest tap water in the world, but in last 20 years, over 50 million people have switched to single-use plastic bottled water instead. TAPP Water is on a mission to get Europeans back to drinking tap water with an ambitious waste reduction goal: 1 billion bottles by 2020.
TAPP Water co-founder Magnus Jern answered our questions and explained the challenges ahead.
When did you start thinking about tap water vs. plastic bottled water?
I moved to Barcelona, Spain, 10 years ago and one of the first things that struck me was that people didn't drink water from the tap. Since I lived on a sixth floor without an elevator, carrying bottled water home was really inconvenient. Therefore, I got used to drinking the tap water even if it doesn't taste that great.
Fast forwarding 7 years, the bottled water industry continued to grow and plastic waste with it. I discussed the issue with a friend of mine and we decided to do something about it.
First, we interviewed water experts in Spain and other countries across Europe and found out that the tap water quality is generally very good. The main challenge is poor taste due to a combination of chlorine, hardness, and minerals. In Barcelona for example most of the water comes from the Llobregat river, which is very hard.
How did the idea evolve into TAPP Water?
We ordered and tested more than 30 filters from the U.S., Asia, and Europe to understand what would be required to make water taste better. In parallel we did surveys, blind testing, and interviews to understand drinking water behavior, what would make people switch back to tap water, price sensitivity, and what kind of product would work best. We identified that the key to success was a product easy for anyone to install, a price point below $50 and a system to remind people when it was time to replace the filter. Based on this TAPP 1 faucet filter was born.
The customer response and feedback has been great. A lot of people say that they cannot believe the difference in taste from a filter that size. Secondly, they love that they don't have to carry home bottles anymore and the reduction in plastic waste. So far we've cut plastic waste by about 200,000 bottles.
Great news! What has been the most challenging aspect?
Educating people and changing behavior is a big task. Most people don't realize how bad the situation with plastic is or how much money they spend on bottled water. We've also found that although environmental consciousness is a trigger of interest, the majority will not spend money to reduce plastic waste. Therefore, the cost saving benefit is extremely important.
We also created a website to educate people about tap water in Spain and the rest of Europe.
How will you reach your "1 billion bottles avoided" goal?
This is only the beginning of a long journey. To reach our goal and achieve our mission we need to continue improving our products, reach a lot more people and engage, inform, and educate. The great thing is that it's a scalable model. With every filter we sell, we invest the profit in converting more people to tap water drinkers. This is how we can achieve our goal.
Thank you Magnus and TAPP Water!