S.African startup I-Drop Water scoops Plastics Pact Reuse Innovation Challenge 2021

The vision for a more circular economy for plastics in Africa is slowly taking shape as the South African water purification startup, I-Drop Water, scoops Plastics Pact Reuse Innovation Challenge 2021 for its innovative solution aimed at reducing plastic waste associated with bottled water.

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The South African Plastics Pact – in partnership with the MAVA Foundation – has named South African-based water purification startup, I-Drop Water, as the winner of a first-of-its-kind contest for innovative reusable packaging solutions. 

The awards recognise companies whose innovative solutions work to accelerate the transition from the inefficient and wasteful linear economy to a circular economy for plastics in South Africa, a step in the right direction given that SA sadly ranked 11th in the 2018 poll of the top 20 countries in the world with mismanaged plastic waste. 

“The I-Drop Waterpod team are absolutely thrilled to win the inaugural SA Plastics Pact Reuse Innovation Challenge. This is particularly special given the amazing solutions presented by all the competitors, all of whom are a proud showcase of South African innovation in sustainability and new approaches to a more circular plastics economy,” said Kate Thiers, CEO of Waterpod by I-Drop. 

Waterpod by I-Drop; sustainable alternative to bottled water

The company plans to build and grow its reach to shop-owners looking for a convenient and simple way of selling purified water refills for a sustainable alternative to bottled water in single-use plastics. “It is up to us in business to create convenient and affordable choices for consumers to go single-use plastics free,” she added.

The first runner-up in the challenge was Sonke Retail, a company that gives consumers, retailers and brands an economic incentive to make environmentally sustainable choices.

Reacting to the news of their victory, second runner-up Green Tap’s founder Carmen Francke had this to say: “We are excited and would like to take some time to put a plan in place as to how we will be spending our winning, but we can say that we will be looking at a community initiative, a marketing campaign, and a new product line.”

“Sonke designs, manufactures and manages automated refills stations that encourage shoppers to bring their own packaging – for a discount. Sonke refill machines are fully automated, “smart”, compact and can dispense up to three liquids,” said company founder Eben De Jongh.


The Green Tap’s key pillars: key pillars: refill, reuse, reduce, recycle

From over 45 entries, the following top six (6) innovators pitched online to a panel of expert judges, hosted by SA Plastics Pact on March 4, 2021:

  • Waterpod by I-Drop
  • Sonke Retail
  • Green Tap
  • Bag Pack
  • Instore Refill Station
  • Earthly

The judging panel was made up of local retailers and brand owners representing Unilever, Tiger Brands, Woolworths, Spur, Spar, Food Lovers Market and, international experts in circular plastics, WRAP. 

The entries had to propose a reusable packaging solution that could be viably implemented by brand owners and retailers in South Africa. The solution had to be geared towards reducing the amount of single-use packaging in South Africa, ideally addressing currently non-recyclable plastics, or plastics that are often littered.

“For supporting a transition towards a circular economy of plastics, it’s crucial to have concerted and collaborative action across actors (businesses, government/local authorities, NGOs) and the value chain – like the South African Plastics Pact (SAPP) – to transform words into concrete actions,” said Nathalie Cadot, impact & sustainability at MAVA Foundation.

“We are thrilled by our collaboration with SAPP aiming to support the pact members’ effort to find reuse of packaging. We hope this first edition of the Reuse Challenge is just a start, many more editions will follow to promote South African reuse innovations and collaborations between start-ups and larger corporates,” she added.

The prize money totalling R500,000 will be shared among the three winners, with the potential for product development or implementation assistance through partner companies from the SA Plastics Pact membership.


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