A WATER COMPANY AS TRANSPARENT
AS ITS PRODUCT.
HOW IT WORKS
Scan the QR code located on each vending station with your phone, and enter your work email address.
After scanning the code, a button will appear on your phone. Press that button, and grab your glass bottle of cold, crisp, clean water. Drink and enjoy! Aaaaaah....
Drop your bottle off at either of the two return bins, and you're all set to circle back through steps one and two.
MEET AUTOMATED WATER MACHINES
As of 2017, a million plastic bottles were purchased every minute. That number was estimated to have increased 20% by 2021. Although many plastic companies have replaced BPA with other chemicals, already 93% of Americans have BPA in their bodies, and we have yet to learn the effects of the chemicals that have replaced it.
Automated Water Machines (AWM) believes that to put an end to plastic pollution, we can’t rely on the already overburdened recycling industry; we must turn off the tap, addressing the issue at its source. AWM envisions a world in which single-use plastic no longer pollutes our beautiful shores and waterways, no longer destroys its habitats, no longer generates unnecessary carbon emissions in its production and transportation, and no longer contaminates our drinking water. In fact, we envision a world in which single-use water containers no longer need to exist.
We understand, however, that convenience is often sustainability’s enemy. So we challenged ourselves to come up with an approach that outperforms both. We asked ourselves: what can we learn from single-use water bottle companies? How come their products are so appealing and convenient to American consumers? And how do we do that, but without the waste we all hate?
Soooo…it’s just water: what makes ours so great?
Remember when people started talking about what happens to water that gets left in its plastic bottle in your car, say, between workouts? That was actually a real problem then, and despite its 15 minutes of fame being long over, the root issue remains.
To start, AWM works to source our water locally. Sourcing locally allows us to both support local water systems, and avoid contributing to the heavy carbon footprint that would otherwise be left when shipping all those bottles all over the world. Drink local!
REUSABLE GLASS BOTTLE
Glass containers are composed of 100% recyclable, non-porous material. This means that, unlike plastic bottles, glass neither leaches chemicals into the water over time or when exposed to normal temperature fluctuations. Nor is glass made with chemicals that have been shown to, themselves, accumulate bacteria, as well as cause plastic break-down, resulting in cracks in which bacteria forms.
Ignoring for a moment the health risks associated with drinking from plastic water bottles, water from glass bottles just…tastes better. Because glass holds cool temperatures better, the water we offer stays cooler in our temperature-controlled vending stations (maintained at a brisk 40 degrees F). And, because glass is taste-neutral, our water just hangs out, uncontaminated, remaining pure and tasteless, while chillin’ in the AWM bottles. The result is crisp, clear, tasteless, cool, refreshing water. You know, water that tastes like water, and nothing else.
AWM'S FILTRATION PROCESS
Okay, so that’s why the water from our glass bottles just tastes better and more refreshing than water served in plastic single-use bottles. And, it’s why water from plastic bottles is, as it turns out, kinda gross, while water served in glass bottles is just as clean and pure as it was when it first made its way into the bottle.
So, what do we do to make sure the water we fill our glass bottles with is the cleanest, purest water possible before it's bottled? Well, we purify it using an advanced filtration process that protects against over 30 contaminants, including bacteria, parasites, microplastics, lead, and mercury, in addition to chemicals including PFAs, chlorine, organic chemical matter (e.g., pesticides), dirt, and sand. Awesome though they may be, ours goes beyond your standard Brita filter.
In addition to filtering 99.999999% of bacteria, 99.999% of parasites, and 99.999% of microplastics, our activated carbon & ion exchange filter protects against lead, mercury, chromium III, cadmium, copper and other heavy metals, chlorine, and chemicals including PFAS (which is a scary chemical byproduct about which we’ve only just begun to understand the negative health effects.
BOTTLE CLEANING PROCESS
While we wait on our brilliant R&D team who is currently working in the lab to complete the development of our direct sterilization station, we are pursuing the next most reliable, albeit a tad labor-intensive, approach, and managing the sanitization process manually.
The first step the AWM staff takes is to collect the bottles from the return bins (thank you, thank you), empty any remaining water, and rinse those bottles. The bottles are then loaded into a high-temperature dishwasher for a deep wash cycle.
Next comes re-bottling. Once the bottles have dried, we refill each bottle, one by one, with water that has been through the above-mentioned filtration process. We then seal each bottle with a new, sterile cap, just to make sure you can feel totally confident when you twist that cap and hear that “pop!” that yours are the only lips that have touched that bottle since it underwent the whole sterilization process.
Finally, a UV light is used on the exterior of each bottle as a final precaution, killing any last stubborn bacteria that may have survived our extensive filtration and sanitization process.
Rest assured, throughout the bottling process, we wear disposable gloves and two face masks for additional protection.
MEET OUR CEO
MANUELA ZONINSEIN, FOUNDER/CEO
Hi! My name is Manuela Zoninsein, I’m the proud Founder and CEO of AWM. I previously launched two businesses: one was an agtech market information service based in Beijing, China, which I sold to a partner; the second is called InstaAgro and is a thriving online marketplace based in São Paulo selling ag inputs to Brazilian smallholder farmers. Most recently, I worked on international business development at Palantir and simultaneously made angel investments in women-led sustainability tech startups through a venture called Love Zero.
The grandchild and child of immigrants and an immigrant myself, I grew up in a resource-conscious household. Add to that a Marxist economist father and Feminist anthropologist mother, who often worried about our impact and responsibility to the world, and it’s no surprise my science fair projects starting in 2nd grade focused on sustainability.
It was really when I returned to the US after living in China for almost a decade, where I recognized the impact that individual actions at scale can have, that I completely committed to a career in sustainability. When I joined Palantir, I was awed by the incredible perks but shocked at how many single use waters each employee consumed. I constantly imagined that same thing happening 1.5 billion times over for 8 cups of water per day. It hurt my heart.
As I walked to the office in New York City each morning, I would pass several Citi Bike stands and wonder, “Why do we manufacture a new container for every bottle of water someone drinks? Can't we build a bike-sharing analogue, but for water bottles?” I knew it would have to be more convenient and trustworthy than single-use, 100% sanitary, and the most sustainable option around.
After running initial trials at MIT while in business school, I was surprised to learn that younger generations enjoy glass bottles, don’t mind reuse if it’s sanitary, and are quite comfortable with engaging in a return process. Plus, they loved the granular usage data we could provide them. It was the proof I needed. With that, AWM was born.