Last year over 250 billion bottles of water were consumed, resulting in unsustainable amounts of plastic pollution being dumped into rivers, lakes, and oceans, and making their way back to our taps as microplastics.
How did we get there? Why are people buying bottled water at a premium?
Water is the source of all life on earth. Mountains, rivers, lakes, aquifers used to offer pristine clean water. Water was only tainted in rare cases by naturally occurring toxins, harmful to humans, such as Coliform or Arsenic.
Then came the agricultural and industrial revolutions and we poisoned our most precious resource.
At the same time, governments started introducing water treatments such as chlorine to kill bacteria, all the while filtering technology was improving.
The overall outcome was safe drinking water, despite human pollution.
Unfortunately, chemical treatments combined with aging pipe infrastructure have resulted in a deterioration of taste and odor of running water… This has driven many people to make the switch to bottled water.
Biodegradable is the way forward
When thinking about how to design TAPP 2, something was clear: we were not going to build a product which requires the use of disposable plastic pieces. If we are working towards reducing plastic, we couldn’t be producing more disposable plastic: enter the TAPP 2 water filter, with its biodegradable refill cartridges. Each refill is made using biodegradable materials which can be disposed of with organic waste.
This, of course, did bring a few challenges. We wanted to offer a competitive faucet water filter. People should not have to pay more for doing the right thing. Equipped with all our learnings from TAPP 1, we met with a team of engineers and designers.
One of the main challenges was to find materials which would be food-grade ready, biodegradable, but slow to biodegrade as they are constantly in contact with water.
Then the second challenge was to find a workaround for using glue. Other filter manufacturers use glue to maintain the carbon block into position. As it turned out though, most glues are non-biodegradable and have a negative impact on the environment, and unfortunately, there are still no biodegradable glues which can withstand such prolonged contact with water. We found a mechanical solution, compressing the carbon bloc between two bioplastic pads to ensure the carbon block is properly fastened into position.
That last challenge was actually a major one, and we have been struggling to find the appropriate bioplastic, with FDA approval. We decided to temporarily use silicon, which is non-toxic, inert and won’t harm the environment when breaking down.
We also ran into another issue, which is that in order to bond the carbon block powder together, manufacturers use non-biodegradable polyethylene. We managed to get the highest quality of any non-biodegradable plastic – inert, and non-toxic. See below why you can still dispose of your refills with organic waste.
Organic waste disposal
TAPP 2 refill cartridges are entirely made out of non-toxic materials which remain inert after decomposing. The cartridges contain a high percentage of biodegradable and compostable material and can be disposed of with organic waste. Please check with your local industrial composting plant. The device itself (without the refills) is made out of highly recyclable ABS polymers.
Biodegradable content: 74%
Casing (42%) has passed ASTM D-6400 Standard Specification for Compostable Plastics
Coconut Shell (32%) breaks down into: CO2 and water
Other product: 26%
Silicon (6%) breaks down into: amorphous silica, carbon dioxide, and water
UHMW (20%) does not biodegrade, but is inert and stable and doesn’t accumulate in marine life
Smart water filter
We wanted our filter to have a positive impact on the environment, but also we wanted to make sure that users would be aware of their impact. So we made a Smart water filter. By using Bluetooth technology, you are able to trigger a notification on your iOS or Android device. This notification immediately opens the app, letting you know your current filter status, when you need to replace the refill cartridge and provides stats on how many plastic bottles and CO2 you have avoided.
But we went even further, we added a map of all the public water refill points in the world, so you now know where to refill a bottle on the go!
And now, what is next? What do you think TAPP 3, 4 or even 5 should focus on? Write to us at [email protected] or reply in the comment section.