When it comes to water, there are a lot of hidden complexities behind Earth’s most vital resource. Water conservation and proper distribution is a major problem. Moreover, plastic waste that comes from the significant usage of bottled water isn’t a negligible issue either. As a result, there’s been a huge push for water purification. So, here’s the real question: how can companies get people to pivot away from their beloved bottled water that provides such a high level of convenience?
The problem goes back to the fact that access to clean water is far from a reality in all parts of the world. In fact, as many as 63 million Americans were exposed to potentially contaminated water more than once in the last decade. That’s more than a fifth of the country. So, what can be done to solve this crisis without harming the environment?
The private sector gets involved
Areas like Flint, Michigan have significant water cleanliness issues with seemingly little government action. Water purification companies in the private sector seem to be getting more involved in tackling the issue.
The company leverages a point-of-use purification approach when filtering water. In other words, the faucet has the purifier directly installed.
“Point-of-contact purification stands in stark contrast to bottled water, which is the route many people take to avoid consuming impure tap water,” Oollee’s co-founders said in an email. “People all over the world need safe and eco-friendly drinking water at an affordable cost, and Oollee is ready to offer it.”
Still, Oolee is in a largely competitive market. Majority of people already know about Brita, the Clorox company that has had a similar motivation for the last 50 years. For companies like Oolee, the question really becomes whether it can get users to buy into their subscription model. As of October 2019, it commands $29/month and a $49 installation fee. So, will its more high-tech solution, including an app that lets users monitor water quality, move the needle?
Is the water purification space promising?
Taking a step back, why are companies even dabbling in the water purification space anyway? On one hand, water purification devices save consumers from having to use plastic bottles time and time again. But are people buying into that vision?
Well, the NRDC found that some people spent as much as 1,000 times more per gallon for bottled water than tap. This trend may point to the idea that there needs to be more messaging around the harms of plastic pollution. Only then can widespread adoption of water purification devices happen.
Tackling the plastic problem
According to National Geographic, more than a million plastic bottles are sold globally every minute. In the U.S., people recycled only 30% of those plastic bottles. During the Ocean Conservancy’s annual beach cleanup, the nonprofit visited over 100 countries. It reported plastic bottles and bottles caps were the third and fourth most collected plastic trash material.
If that seems like a lot, imagine this: 80% of plastic bottles end up in landfills. For each of those bottles, it takes 1,000 years to fully decompose.
More and more people are recognizing just how dangerous plastic waste is. Several governments around the world and major companies have announced commitments to curb plastic pollution. Just a few weeks ago, Unilever announced plans to reduce its use of virgin plastics in half and collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells.
Looking into the future
Providing clean water while reducing plastic waste sounds like a far cry in an economy where convenience is king. But as companies in the private sector continue to compete for customer loyalty and convince them to switch over from bottled water, it seems like messaging is still an issue—and that’s a problem that will take time to solve.