SAN DIEGO — A new startup called Tap has a bold ambition: convince people to stop buying plastic bottles of water.
Tap launched an app Tuesday that displays nearby clean drinking water locations, from restaurants and retail stores to public water fountains, so you can refill your water bottle. It’s like Google Maps for clean drinking water.
The Tap app, available for free on Android and iOS, highlights 34,000 refill stations across 7,100 cities in 30 countries. The company spent a few months crowdsourcing locations around the world that are either open to the public or OK with having people wander into their storefronts asking for water refills.
“Water is a mispriced public good,” founder Samuel Rosen told CNN Business. “I believe we, as consumers, have been robbed of our own water and sold back to us by corporations.”
Rosen is the cofounder and former CEO of on-demand storage startup MakeSpace. In November 2017, he left his CEO role at the startup. He came up with the concept for his next startup after paying $5 for a bottle of Evian at the airport.
By making it easy and inexpensive to find water nearby, Tap hopes people will cut down on plastic waste and change their behavior.
Consumers may also start seeing blue “Tap” signs in store windows signaling the business is friendly to thirsty guests. The app provides profiles on each location and what it offers, such as flavored or sparkling water, and whether it comes free or at cost from a water cooler, counter service or a drinking fountain.
Earlier this month, the UN Intergovernmental Panel released a bombshell climate change report that warned global warming is on track to have a disastrous impact if nothing changes by 2030. The report said the impact could result in extreme drought, wildfires, floods and food shortages for hundreds of millions of people.
Plastic waste is a key contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, which causes the Earth’s surface temperature to rise. Eight million tons of plastic enter the water each year, according to the World Economic Forum, and more plastic is expected in our oceans than fish by 2050 in terms of weight, if our current usage of plastic continues.
But Tap isn’t the first to connect people to clean drinking water. Nonprofit WeTap, an app that has been around for about six years, helps people find to the closest public drinking fountains.
If Tap gets off the ground, its unclear if stores will be bombarded by people looking for refills and how retailers might react. But Rosen is steadfast: “The future is bottle-less.”