Green kiosk startups battle landfill waste

It's not very often that sustainability and convenience are mentioned in the same sentence. For most people, recycling is an added task to an already overloaded list of daily to-dos, and making decisions based on environmental best practices is a righteous yet easy-to-forget habit.

But just as society has become conditioned to the notion that "there's an app for that," two recent startups could help evolve the saying into "there's a kiosk for that."

The Bettery Station, a reusable battery purchasing and swapping kiosk, and the Evive Station, a reusable water bottle cleaning and filling kiosk, are both hoping to tackle landfill waste one use-case at a time. 

Click here for photos.

The Bettery Station

According to research from Nielsen, the U.S. household battery market today represents $3.5 billion in sales. With Western Europe and Japan added, that figure jumps to $6 billion. Out of the total amount of batteries sold, 99 percent of them are single-use and are disposed of in landfills. 

The Bettery Station, which is still under development, will aim to keep 3 billion batteries a year from ending up in landfills, in turn keeping hazardous waste from leaking into the environment, by conditioning battery users to reuse rather than dispose. 

Bettery founder and CEO Charlie Kawasaki — a Portland, Ore.-based technology veteran with 30 years of experience in high tech software, hardware and communications startups — came up with the idea for the battery swapping station after realizing his disappointment with battery usage over the years. 

"I got really excited about the potential for rechargeable batteries to move up the use model from something you use and dispose to something you use over and over again," Kawasaki said.

If all goes according to plan, the Bettery recharging kiosks will live in grocery stores, drug stores and other retail locations across the country. Users will be able to take home four fully charged AA or AAA rechargeable batteries for $10. When they are drained of power, the batteries are swapped for four new ones at the cost of $2. 

According to Kawasaki, the latest in rechargeable battery technology will be used in the Bettery batteries, allowing for thousands of recharges and long-lasting power holds. After about four uses, the batteries begin to pay for themselves, he said.

From a retailer's perspective, Kawasaki feels the sustainability mission put forward by the Bettery kiosks will fit in with the current trend in retail toward greener practices. Whole Foods Market has even gotten on board, agreeing to host the initial launch of the kiosks at five store locations in Washington and Oregon beginning in the first quarter of next year.

"I think it is a really great service," said Dena Hastings, the regional green mission specialist for Whole Foods Pacific Northwest. "It is easy in terms of implanting into stores; it's contained and is in line with our company to find sustainable means."

Hastings said select Whole Foods locations have been conducting swap simulations and surveys with positive feedback from shoppers. She said Bettery fits in in with the Whole Foods culture and those who frequent the stores. 

And just like more shoppers are becoming conscious of plastic grocery bag waste and have gotten in the habit of carrying reusables, so too will they catch on to the concept of Bettery.

"Change is something that happens over time," Hastings said, "and you just need people to get in the right mind set."

The Evive Station

In 2011, total bottled water sales in the U.S. hit 9.1 billion gallons — 29.2 gallons of bottled water per person, according to sales figures from Beverage Marketing Corp. In handy half-liter bottle terms that comes to 222 bottles of water for each person in the country — four bottles of water every week for every man, woman and child. 

In short, that's a lot of plastic trash.

Enter the Evive Station, a Pittsburgh, Pa.-based startup that promotes the use of reusable water bottles by offering bottle cleaning and filtered water fill-ups of its company-issued, RFID-equipped, insulated plastic bottles. The stations have already been deployed on several college campuses at no cost to the universities, draw from public water lines and are remotely monitored and maintained by Evive. 

When a student stops for a drink, the RFID tag triggers personalized advertisements on a 32-inch screen based on information listed in his or her profile. The profiles include similar information to a Facebook account and are completed on the company's website. Machines filter and dispense water from public lines, and fill-ups are free and unlimited.

Tom Petrini, Evive founder and its current chief technology and strategy officer, explained that he came up with the concept for Evive while studying sustainability as part of his MBA, noticing that during a conference water bottles were given away with no means to clean or fill them. After developing several prototypes, the final product was produced and manufactured by Singapore-based Flextronics in Creedmor, N.C.

Evive launched at West Virginia University by giving away about 4,000 stainless steel bottles. Petrini said college campuses were chosen because, "People with reusable water bottles need to clean them, and most college students aren't set up for such cleaning — or want to be for that matter."

Petrini said that while water filling stations are becoming more common, the ability to clean the bottles is what makes Evive unique in the market. 

"You have a lot of locations that are adopting filling stations as a solution," Petrini said. "But really to continue using it you need to have the cleaning side to it. It helps to get people to use reusable bottles more conveniently."

The Evive network of kiosks is currently situated on various college campuses in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and California, with plans to expand into health centers, office parks and other trafficked areas. Starting in December, newer-model plastic reusable bottles will be sold for $10 on Evive's website. 

"There is a staggering amount of disposable bottles that are consumed every year and 80 percent of those end up in a landfill," said Petrini, "so being able to offset that waste and the sustainability side is what is really important."

Photo provided by animantis.

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