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Hungarian innovation for the environment | Oonly

A sustainable Hungarian innovation aimed at reducing plastic pollution, one of the most important issues of our time: Oonly rethinks the deposit-refund scheme for bottles to allow us to consume high-quality mineral water with the help of a fully plastic waste-free and zero waste system.

In Hungary, at least two billion PET bottles are placed into circulation in a year, the majority of which lands in trash cans shortly after the end of their life—only every third bottle is recycled. As also highlighted by István Polony, the owner of Oonly and the mind behind the idea, “recycling is good, but we think it is much better if it is not needed at all”. When creating Oonly’s system, the goal was to generate no single-use plastic waste at all. “I wanted to create a process in which consumers didn’t have to give up on premium quality mineral water just to remain environmentally conscious. With Oonly this doesn’t have to be a matter of either/or,” he added.

The idea was born in the summer of 2018, when István was enjoying his vacation with his family at Lake Balaton, in a place where carbonated water was supplied in returnable bottles, available in “soda trucks” driving through the streets of the settlements. “Plastic bottles have been banned in our family for years, and so my kids immediately started making jokes about the fact that the carbonated water bottles are also made of plastic. We ended up having a long conversation about why the carbonated water bottle used for several times is different compared to regular plastic bottles. This was the conversation that ultimately gave rise to the idea of finding a more modern solution built on similar foundations to not banishing mineral water from our lives for environmental reasons,” reminisced István about the beginning of founding his business.

One of the most important elements of Oonly’s innovative process is the bottle boasting a sleek design, made of BPA-free Tritan. Durability was one of the key aspects when choosing the materials. In addition to durability, Tritan can be disinfected at a very high temperature, thus making the bottles suitable for up to thirty refills without a decrease in quality. The number of refills can be monitored with the help of the QR code placed on the bottom of the bottles. They don’t use a plastic label to display product information either: the signs are placed on the side of the bottles with washable paint. The only single-use element of the process is the bottle cap, which is made of aluminum, but according to the founder, this decision was also made along the principle of eco-consciousness: aluminum is one of the materials that are the easiest to recycle.

Another key element of the process is the high-quality mineral water: Oonly’s returnable bottles are filled with Vis Vitalis, the premium quality and naturally crystal clear mineral water of the Pannonhalma Archabbey.

“I attended a Piarist high school, where Cirill Hortobágy T., the current archabbot of Pannonhalma, used to teach geography: I gained a personal connection to Pannonhalma through him. Vis Vitalis is the premium mineral water of the Pannonhalma Archabbey. In addition to the personal involvement, I also considered it of key importance that we combined the modern solution with a premium quality water. On top, environmentalism is also a priority for the Archabbey,” István shared with us.

If you purchase an Oonly bottle and drink the water in it, you can return the empty bottle into circulation from the comfort and safety of your home, online, via the couriers of kifli.hu, or via a docking station. The concept of the latter was also conceived by István, who worked on its implementation with two Hungarian developer teams: the docking station is suitable to store, sell and return nine hundred bottles, the first prototype of which was installed last December in Budapest’s Allee Shopping Center. Additional docking stations will be installed depending on the results of the prototype. “We are proud that Oonly is a 100% Hungarian innovation—all they way from the idea to its implementation,” István pointed out.

Oonly is available in 1.5 liter bottles, both in carbonated and non-carbonated versions. Go and give them a try!

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