Plastic pollution is a major challenge the world is facing today. In New Zealand alone, an estimated 828 million single-use plastic bottles are discarded every year, most of which end up in our landfills and, additionally, in our lakes, rivers and oceans. Since it takes centuries for plastic to completely decompose, it breaks down into microplastic which is an element that is harmful to both humans and wildlife.

With this in mind, it is important not only for individuals to reduce their plastic consumption but for businesses to lead by example and support causes that encourage customers to do so. Luckily for us, RefillNZ has come up with a plastic reduction scheme that puts the responsibility to both customers and restaurants alike. The award-winning campaign provides foodservice businesses with stickers and posters that let people know they can come in and refill reusable water bottles for free.

“People need easy solutions to help them reduce their plastic consumption,” said Jill Ford founder of RefillNZ. “RefillNZ is a national campaign to reduce plastic pollution in Aotearoa by empowering people to refill their water bottles while on the go from local businesses and organisations.”

In less than a year since its debut, the campaign has signed up over 600 cafes, restaurants and other organisations throughout New Zealand. It also received the Keep NZ Beautiful – Community Environmental Initiative award and is run by a tiny team of committed volunteers.

Derek Hillen, head brewer at iconic Grey Lynn taproom New Leaf Kombucha, has recently joined the campaign.

“We already have a similar practice at new leaf kombucha where we offer Kombucha refills to customers when they return with our containers, so it was a no-brainer, really. It tails nicely with our own sustainability initiatives, and if anything, reaffirms what we’ve already done.”

When asked what the customer feedback has been since the stickers were put up outside the brewery, Hillen said it was simply too early to tell.

“We joined the campaign for two simple reasons; one, we believe in its mission and two, there’s been an overwhelming demand to do the same thing that we’ve done with our kombucha.”

In Auckland, RefillNZ is part of a wider project created in collaboration with Wai Auckland, Auckland Transport, Auckland Council and Auckland Regional Public Health Service. Amanda Brien, project manager of the collaboration, coordinates the sign-up for various cafes and businesses in Auckland.

“It’s been an absolute pleasure working with Jillan,” shared Brien. “Our mission was to address obesity and dental health issues, joining forces with the campaign was a natural alignment.”

With the summer season approaching, more tourists will be roaming the city looking for water. However, Refill NZ’s founder believes that with the help of local cafes and restaurants, there is hope to turn the tide on plastic pollution.

To be a part of the plastic reduction campaign, visit