Tech entrepreneur Justin Wang set up self-cleaning bottle company LARQ, to tackle plastic bottle waste and water contamination.
As a society we are throwing away a staggering one million plastic water bottles per minute, of which less than seven percent are recycled. Despite the wide availability of reusable water bottles, they only account for less than five percent of the total market when compared to one-use plastic water bottles. Although we have access to reusable bottles, we still have not been able to make a dent in our plastic consumption.
This was the conundrum that Justin Wang grappled with while out hiking, when despite having several reusable water bottles, he still needed to buy more water. He found that often, reusable water bottles would be hard to clean and go mouldy, or he would not be able to carry enough water for the whole day.
Serendipitously, Wang met his co-founders who had invented a UV-C LED light technology that kills bacteria. They put their heads together and launched a self-cleaning water bottle business, LARQ, two years ago, by installing an automatic UV self-cleaning light in the bottle lid. Press the LARQ Bottle cap once to activate it and in 60 seconds you'll have pure water to drink. The light in the cap can be recharged with a USB cable.
The LARQ bottle in currently being stocked by 88 retailers in 16 countries, including Nordstrom and Bloomingdales in New York, Selfridges in London and online platform Net-A-Porter, with plans to expand further. Even though it retails at a steep £95 a piece, since launch sales have exceeded 175,000. The company states that U.S. water safety standards haven’t been updated in over 50 years, and 27 million Americans are served by water systems violating health standards established by the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Last month, LARQ launched its first home product, the LARQ Pitcher, a Brita-style filter, which it hopes will revolutionise the home water-filtration industry. “Like our flagship LARQ Bottle, the LARQ Pitcher will also use LARQ’s proprietary PureVis UV-C LED technology to eradicate bacteria, viruses and mould, turning on automatically every six hours to keep your water pure,” says Wang.
LARQ has seen a 400 percent year-on-year increase in revenue since launching the brand. “As our brand awareness grows and consumer consciousness of the difficulties of single-use plastic use increases, it’s a promising sign. Since launch we have shipped more than 175,000 bottles displacing over nine million single-use bottles in that period,” says Wang.
This year, LARQ announced a partnership with Plastic Bank: after an initial contribution of US$10,000, one percent of every sale will go to help reduce ocean-bound plastic.
While LARQ crowdfunded its initial investment of US$50,000, it recently secured US$10 million in Series A funding lead by Seventure, with participation by DCM Ventures and Alumni Ventures Group. Also among its shareholders are Capricorn Investment Group, Heuristic Capital and Augment Ventures.