Why can’t I refill my plastic water bottle in my local supermarket?

Musing more on what else we can use plastic bottles for, I found myself wanting to refill my water bottle, not just while “communing” in a hostel, but while living in an apartment in Santiago. The tap water here is potable, but it tastes just awful. I spend money every day on plastic water bottles, and am starting to feel more than just a little guilty about it, especially since I’m pretty sure the generic garbage facility is not recycling them [update: I will soon be able to recycle them at a local Lider supermarket].

Why can’t I refill my bottle in my apartment building? Or better yet, at a local Lider supermarket? You can do almost everything else there – including pay your bills and use their lockers.


It seems like coin operated water dispensing machines like this one do actually clean the water, so they could be used in Mexico or Bolivia where they don’t just crave nicer tasting water #firstWorldProblems.

It also seems like they would be more environmentally friendly since they don’t waste any resources otherwise used to get plastic water bottles onto shelves, but I still need to investigate further.

coin operated soviet era automatic water dispenser-15
Here’s a coin operated water dispensers from Soviet Russia. Super cool.

If you are in the US, Whole Foods have a reverse osmosis water machine at $.35/gallon (about 3.7 litres). The only downside if you already have clean water in your apartment, is having to lug the reusable jugs home. In Canada there are cool 24 hour water refilling stations, like Rocky Ridge.

coin op web rock ridge
Rocky Ridge 24 Hour Water Refilling station

In Mexico, we had no choice. It was either that, or pay more to get it delivered.

Familiar sight in Mexico – collecting your water jug

But I don’t really need a 10-20 litre jug. At the moment I find myself buying 1.5 litre bottles as I need them, so if there were a coin operated water dispenser in my local Lider, I would just refill my bottle there instead.

I wonder does anyone have this in mind for Chile? It’s probably never going to happen – it costs so much to import equipment here that it would take forever to earn back the cost of the machine. It’s probably too niche a use case. But Mexico might be different.

Anyone know if this already happening there? If not, anyone want to start this as a side project with me? 😉  Importing coin operated water machines into Mexico? Lets do it!

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