In the weeks leading up to the Sustainable Brands Innovation Open (SBIO) finals on June 4th, where the runner-up will be decided via live online public vote, we will get to know our 11 semi-finalists. Today, meet the WaterBean.
“Four years ago on a fishing trip on the sea of Japan we hit a small island of plastic waste. Bottles, fishing nests, assorted plastic — it was disgusting. It started me thinking. I looked at an existing Japanese custom of placing a lump of charcoal in the family water pot. Nice, but not really suited to modern tastes. So, I set out to develop a modern interpretation,” says Graeme Glen, creator of the WaterBean — a reusable, portable water filter that fits into most plastic bottles.
A simple shake and swirl of the bottle activates the WaterBean filter to purify tap water into clean drinking water. The WaterBean not only removes impurities found in ordinary tap water such as chlorine and odors, it also adds essential minerals such as Magnesium to the water, thus eliminating the need to buy bottled water.
“WaterBean uses granulated coconut carbon, just like every other filter in the world. What is different is that WaterBean sits in the water while cleaning it. Carbon filters are most effective at removing chlorine, sediment, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), taste and odor from water,” Glen explains.
The company's mission is to “reduce an individual's plastic waste and provide them with clean, crisp, alkaline water.” A WaterBean campaign video details that on average, a person uses 167 plastic bottles per year and bottled water produces around 1.5 million tons of plastic waste annually. The company estimates that a single WaterBean can prevent purchase of 280 bottles of water, reducing waste in landfills and oceans. Moreover, the WaterBean is BPA-free and the replaceable filter bags are compostable. So, in effect- as long as you care for and use the WaterBean and compost the filter, there is no waste generated. The packaging is minimal and reusable and the company plans to “donate a percentage of sales to charities that sponsor clean water in developing countries,” says Glen.
Another plus is its ergonomic design, which allows the WaterBean to fit into any bottle 12oz or larger. The team focused on creating a unique design that was portable, made from sustainable materials and most importantly, did not pop out of the bottle. The WaterBean's spring-loaded design contracts, making it easy to put in or remove from a bottle, and expands once inside the bottle. It also comes in a variety of color options.
The WaterBean is designed to filter tap water, but it cannot be used to drink directly from rivers and lakes. “WaterBean is not a survival tool for the zombie apocalypse. It is for removing bad tastes, funky odors and ‘tapiness’ from treated city tap water,” says the company.
WaterBean's core team is dispersed throughout the world, with Glen based in Japan and colleagues in Thailand, Poland, Germany and Dubai. The team has extensive experience in industrial design, product and package design and global finance. The company has been privately funded so far and Glen says the company’s Indiegogo campaign resulted in “Great media response. Lackluster response from sponsors, possibly because it was not posted as ‘all or nothing’.”
Nevertheless, the team is forging ahead and production is set to begin in a few weeks, with the goal of having WaterBean available online shortly afterward with free shipping.
Next steps for the company?
“Fine-tune the packaging and message. Get the PR firm working at full speed and start looking for ways to get WaterBean on shelves through distributors,” says Glen.
The WaterBean creator says the team is also looking forward to receiving feedback on their messaging and connecting with distributors at the upcoming Sustainable Brands Innovation Open.
Along with 2013 SBIO finalists Thread and companies such as Levi’s, Dirtball and Bionic Yarn, all hard at work turning plastic bottle waste into fabric, the WaterBean could be the latest addition to a team of solutions emerging to tackle this global problem.