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Inventor taps into TV exposure, crowd funding for water bottle project

By: Kate Tilley

April 21, 2014

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — An Australian inventor has developed a reusable plastic water bottle with a filter in a bid to get more people to drink tap water instead of buying disposable water bottle.

Gretha Oost founded Melbourne-based Half A Teaspoon Pty. Ltd. to market 321 Water-branded bottles, manufactured in Melbourne from Eastman Chemical Co.’s Tritan-branded copolyester. She will not name the manufacturer.

Oost said the product name 321 Water was because her research found it takes three liters of fresh water to make one liter of bottled water.

There is also a recycled PET version of the bottle, made in collaboration with Melbourne-based Visy Industries Australia Pty. Ltd., from materials recycled in Australia.

The bottles contain a rubber-sealed carbon block, a porous filter that absorbs impurities, odors, tastes, organic compounds and residual chlorine from potable tap water.

Oost told Plastics News she was struck by an image of children sitting on a “massive pile of empty water bottles” when she read a book about the global water crisis.

She researched bottle usage and found common motivations for buying bottled water are convenience, taste and style.

In 2008, she developed a prototype 321 Water bottle with funding from a Victorian Government design project, Design Victoria. She appeared on an Australian television show, The New Inventors, where inventors present their products to a national audience. She said the show “generated mass interest.”

While the product was in the concept stage, Oost used crowd funding to start manufacturing. She presold 2,500 units and raising the rest of the money from investors for a 10,000 unit run.

It took 14 months to create the product. The first customer bought a bottle in September 2009 and received it in December 2010.

Oost has now sold “close to 20,000” units, mostly in Australia, but also to international markets, including the U.S., Spain, France, and the Netherlands, via a website.

She is currently in discussions with potential distributors in Asia, trying to negotiate sales to China, Japan and Singapore.

She sells corporate-branded versions of the bottles to companies including Qantas Airways Ltd., Samsung Group and General Electric Australia.

The bottles have not sold as quickly as Oost expected, but she blames a lack of consumer awareness about the number of bottles thrown away.

“We have to focus on educating people and positioning [the bottles] as a desirable product.”

Filters can be used for 100 refills and last one to two months. Customers can buy annual, monthly or bi-monthly refills.

Oost said other reusable filtered water bottles require replacing a complete cartridge and casing, while 321 Water bottles replace only the carbon block, thus “minimizing environmental impact.”