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Beating single-use plastic with innovative water dispensing concept

Local company I-Drop Water has deployed an innovative solution to the challenge of supplying clean drinking water at an affordable cost, and has successfully installed its Waterpod system in over 100 retailers across Southern Africa.

The self-service machines dispense purified drinking water – with customers supplying their own containers – that retails for up to 80% less than the price of single-use plastic-bottled water. Stores share in the revenue on a per-litre sale basis.

Sales and purchases are monitored using a real time Internet-of-Things (IoT) connected platform developed specifically for the application.

As a for-profit social enterprise, I-Drop Water’s core purpose is to provide affordable, safe drinking water to as many people as possible using business efficiencies and incentives by providing an alternative to single-use plastic water bottles.

Says James Steere, co-founder of I-Drop Water (pictured above): “Paid-for per litre drinking water refills are an affordable and environmentally-friendly option widely adopted in countries around the world. This offering is now becoming more prevalent in South Africa, especially as people become more sensitive to the need to reduce the use of single-use plastics.”

The sale of drinking water refills has, however, traditionally been limited in its reach, mostly available in shopping malls or through dedicated water-shops.

Steere says I-Drop has, in conjunction with Swedish water technology company, Bluewater, developed a mobile trailer that can purify and dispense drinking water, typically for large-scale sports events, film sets and other remote sites.

Recently, I-Drop set up shop at temporary sites at Langa Junction and on the Grand Parade in Cape Town City Centre to test consumer acceptance of the concept. Working with a small research group of Harvard Business School students, Steere says they encountered “a hugely positive response to this affordable drinking water alternative for people in these areas.”

Steere has been recognised for his innovative solutions to the problem of affordable drinking water – he won the All Africa Business Leadership Award (AABLA) in 2017, and he was the South African finalist in the 2017 Chivas The Venture competition for social entrepreneurship (he then placed third in the global competition).

I-Drop was also given a Development Award from the SAB Foundation Social Innovation Awards in 2017. See more at

Source: Food & Beverage Reporter – August 2019 issue. Click here to read the magazine online

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