Cups, not bottles
Water doesn’t need to come in a bottle to be convenient, Acup serves people water when and where they need.
Water doesn’t need to be portable if it’s available whenever and wherever you need. Our concept gives customers a way to quenching their thirst that isn't bottled water: a dense network of kiosks that distribute water in small reusable cups for immediate consumption.
Better than bottled water.
Bottled water is great. It’s cheap, convenient and it’s there when you need it. But it is also ridiculous. Clean tap water is readily available throughout the city. Yet, we still waste mountains of plastic and clouds of emissions packaging and transporting water to convenient stores.
Our team set out to develop a solution that could give the convenience of bottled water without the negative effects. Instead of just replacing bottled water, we wanted to improve on it.
Easy is more important than good.
We hit the streets of Hong Kong to speak with occasional users, people who never drink anything other than bottled, elderly people who would never consider buying a bottle, and those who simply think carrying their own bottle is easier. Interacting in-situ helped users reflect on and articulate their thoughts giving us vivid insights into the banal subject.
Convenience doesn’t only come from a bottle. It’s about being widely available, quickly consumable and reliable.
Bottled water buyers care about convenience above all else. While its environmental impact is clear, it is also unlikely to impact user behavior. Hot water—a local preference—proved to be completely missing from the market, opening an opportunity to increase adoption rates of the new system. And, surprisingly, we found a huge group of people for whom bottled water is not convenient water. Big bottles are heavy and obnoxious to carry. Convenience doesn’t only come from a bottle. It’s about being widely available, quickly consumable and reliable.
Who needs a bottle when you can have a cup?
Water doesn’t need to be portable if it’s available whenever and wherever you need. Our concept gives customers a new solution to quenching their thirst: a dense network of kiosks that distribute water in small reusable cups for immediate consumption. While moving about the city, customers approach an Acup stand, grab a pre-filled cup of water, gulp it down, swipe their octopus card and continue on their journey.
Customers can choose from hot, room temperature and cold water. Selling for HK$2 each (circa 25 cents US) Acup emphasizes paying for water rather than paying for a container. Each cup earns and costs as much per liter as a bottle of water would. Stands are staffed by elderly Hong Kongers giving the service a friendly local touch. Kiosks are located in transportation hubs and on high-foot traffic areas to ensure users have water when and where they need.
Good for people and the planet.
Our product-service system cuts out the plastic waste and transportation emissions that make up the main negative environmental impacts of bottled water. Cups are washed in small high-efficiency dishwashers in the kiosks then reused. Leaving much less plastic waste than the bottled-water system produces. Pulling water from the municipal water supply, and filtering it on-site eliminates all transportation needs.
Another positive impact comes from our plan to employ Hong Kong’s elderly population. Hong Kong has a weak social pension system, leaving a huge percentage of its elderly population in poverty. They usually supplement their income with basic labor such as street cleaning and garbage collection to make ends meet. Acup’s relatively human-resources-intense solution is feasible as a social initiative to employ the city’s elderly.
Emily Yang, Stan Lee, J.P. Park, and Jane Chen
Hong Kong Polytechnic University
Header photo by Niklas Morberg