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Chicago-based Kadeya develops beverage machine geared toward eliminating single-use bottles

Chicago company seeks to bottle a green future with its beverage machines
Chicago company seeks to bottle a green future with its beverage machines 03:01

CHICAGO (CBS) -- A small Chicago business has a big idea—eliminate single-use plastic water bottles and cut emissions leading to climate change.

Kadeya has developed a vending machine that dispenses a drink—and then takes a bottle back, cleans it, and can dispense a new one.

More than 1 million single-use plastic water bottles are purchased every minute globally. Kadeya's new vending machine was created to change that—with just one machine eliminating more than 100,000 plastic bottles in a year.

"What you're looking at is basically a vending machine," Kadeya founder and chief executive officer Manuela Zoninsein explained as she showed off a machine. "Little do you know what's behind here is basically a whole bottling plant."

The machines – or closed-loop hydration stations, as Kadeya calls them – can dispense filtered still water, sparkling water, or flavored beverages. But unlike the average vending machine, the Kadeya station dispenses beverages in a reusable stainless-steel bottle.

"We have priced our product to compete with single-use," said Zoninsein.

Bottles are then be returned to any Kadeya machine to be washed, sanitized, and inspected before they are refilled.

The machines measure 7.5 square feet—not nearly as large as the one Zoninsein showed to CBS 2 at Kadeya's West Loop headquarters.

"You can think of it as Divvy bikes for bottles," said Zoninsein. "You just borrow the bottle."

Based in Chicago, Kadeya is a female-founded climate technology startup with a few climate-focused goals in mind - eliminating single use plastic and reducing emissions. "Kadeya" means "chain" in Portuguese—in a reference to its mission both to reimagine the supply chain and, as the company puts it, "start a chain reaction for good."

Two-thirds of the carbon footprint of a packaged beverage comes from transportation and labor. Eliminating both in favor of a reusable bottle reduces that carbon footprint by 70%—and involves zero plastic.

"A lot of big ideas start with simple questions, and I was really frustrated by all the single-use packaging we were producing," Zoninsein said. 

Such a carbon footprint reduction is a start, when one considers that every year, nearly 11 million pounds of plastic gets into Lake Michigan.

"The packaged beverage market alone is responsible for 1.5% of global carbon emissions," Zoninsein said.

Kadeya's first customers are industrial workforces. The company is already working with the U.S. Air Force, construction companies, and major manufacturers.

"We are really focused only on three hours within Chicagoland," Zoninsein said.

Once the company is grown, the goal is to get Kadeya machines into such locations as amusement parks, movie theaters, and entertainment venues – and anywhere else they could make a difference.

"We don't have to wait for some breakthrough technology," Zoninsein said. "We can start solving the problem - all of us, right away."

A total of 35 Kadeya machines will be in use by the end of the year, with 200 more set for 2025. The 200 machines coming next year will only be available to business customers, which must be secured with a $100 deposit, the company said.

Kadeya also urges people to connect on LinkedIn and Instagram.

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