Join the Pipe: ‘A plastic bottle ban is coming’
Join the Pipe has an ambition – to ensure that everyone has access to free good quality tap water and sustainable business solutions. It encourages people to refill, re-use and reduce.
The company, set up 10 years ago in Amsterdam, was ahead of the curve with its sustainable approach.
The idea was to provide drinking water to everyone in outside areas from local squares and parks with its innovative pipe solution with recyclable bottles. Luckily the quality of the tap water in the Netherlands meant that the pipe-type taps could provide access to water for consumers everywhere, with the local authorities paying for the water supply. The success of the solution then saw the company expand inside to other venues such as universities, schools and offices.
Lucie Ladigue, business developer for France and the UK at Join the Pipe, says that the industry is changing.
“Plastic bottles are going to be banned that is for sure. A plastic bottle ban is coming,” she predicts.
Join the Pipe has turned its attention to nearby countries for its rollout of the concept – with UK, France and Germany in its sights. There is also interest further afield from Spain, Porto, Dubai and New York.
Its latest strategy is to focus on the hospitality and retail sectors – from pre-filled bottles to ready-to-go refillable filter taps.
One thing that makes Join the Pipe unique is its reusable bottle. They are made from sugarcane, which is transformed into a new type of plastic called Green PE, which while not biodegradable but are fully recyclable. The bottles are also dishwasher proof and can be cleaned up to 80 degrees to ensure they are bacteria free.
“We use the residue and what is left over and this makes a resistant material that is way more sustainable than original plastic,” Ladigue says.
“As you can keep it for years it really helps you to reduce the waste you consume with normal plastic bottles.”
The importance of offering the bottles was not only to be sustainable but also for health reasons.
“We did not want people to drink from plastic bottles. If you drink from them again it is toxic for your health because you drink micros plastics,” she says.
The good news is that the bottles can be customised for companies or regions by adding a logo. Currently, it offers a range that can have the names of different cities on them. In the UK this includes London and Birmingham with Manchester to follow.
Its focus on the hotel, restaurant and hospitality sectors, means that Join the Pipe is looking to it provide ready filled bottles that can be offered to customers on site or in fridges.
“We believe that single use plastic bottles will go. We are trying to add our bottles as an alternative in the places that we can touch more people, “ she adds.
Another major focus also has to be on ensuring the reuse of the bottles by offering the filtered water taps in the UK.
“If you sell a reusable bottle you still need to be able to refill them,” she adds.
But she admits the market is becoming more difficult for the innovative company as bigger multinationals enter the market with their own branded water bottles.
“They are everywhere and have the power to be everywhere. That is a challenge, “ she says.
However, while many of the larger companies are considering moving to PET recycled plastic, which is a better option, Join the Pipe does not believe this is a permanent solution to the plastics issue and supports the use of Green PE.
Another focus for the company is its plan to target the supermarket sector. As well as have a 500ml bottle available it has introduced a 1.5 litre bottle with the aim to replace six-pack water bottles that consumers would buy at the till. This would mean a water tap on site that can offer refillable water and can even offer cooled and sparkling variants.
Join the Pipe is also entering a partnership with The Loop, the reusable packaging supplier that is launching in the UK.
“They are partnering with Tesco and the idea is that when you do your shopping online everything comes in recyclable packaging,” she says.
As part of it sustainability strategy Join the Pipe also donates and finances many projects in developing countries such as Africa. Part of the income generated from its refill stations and multi-use bottles is used to set up water projects in developing countries.So far it has supported 300 projects, which can be anything from handing out water bottles to school children for better hygiene, installing water pumps in villages to organising city clean-ups to tackle plastic waste issues.
“This is a good company and we are doing it for a good cause,” she adds.
And what of the future and plans for innovation?
Overall the plan is to expand the concept further afield from its heartland of The Netherlands.
There are also plans for more product innovation.
“In Amsterdam we are working in partnership with Lipton Tea with bags for cold water to infuse,” she says.
“We are open to new ideas and new partnerships.”