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EcoTank—Wiping out plastic waste

Have you ever been frustrated by refilling your windshield washer fluid? From spilling fluid all over your engine compartment to having nowhere to dispose of the plastic jugs at the gas station or half-empty jugs rattling around your trunk, surely there must be a more convenient and eco-friendly way.

That’s exactly what Robbie Mair and Jordon Francis thought after the latter had an aggravating time trying to refill his washer fluid. And so, the two embarked on a remarkable journey—during the pandemic, no less!—that had humble beginnings, born from hanging out in a hot tub.

Windshield washer fluid as a career?

“I never envisioned myself selling washer fluid,” said Robbie, but he has almost always been self-employed. He was in real estate for many years and also flipped houses. He caught the entrepreneurial bug early and has always liked the idea of owning a business. So, he and his partner Jordon, who was working in operations management at the time, wanted to get ahead of a changing market and were on the lookout for the next big thing.

The journey begins

The two friends wanted to create something new—something that would change how consumers refill their washer fluid and reduce plastic waste. But as it turns out, this type of service—and dispenser—was already available in Europe, so they brought EcoTank over here and bought the North American rights to it.

It wasn’t as simple as that, of course. First, they had to have the dispenser tanks recertified for use in Canada, and many other adjustments had to be made. To minimize the risk to retailers like Petro Canada and 7-Eleven, they own and manufacture all their units. They also had to consider where they’re located. For example, electric vehicle owners don’t often go to gas stations, so they’ve also installed dispensers at charging stations.

Today, EcoTank has over a dozen partners in Canada, and it’s been interesting to note that different companies had different reasons for getting on board. Some cared more about economics, while others cared more about the environment. To make their product more scalable—and interesting—for retailers, new units have screens to allow them to sell ad placements to advertisers. Now that’s added value!

Convenience is the key

Protecting the environment is at the centre of EcoTank’s business plan, by preventing plastic from entering landfills. Over 70 million plastic jugs end up in Canadian landfills and recycling them is cost- and effort-intensive.

Most people are in favour of helping the environment and are more likely to do so if the measures are easy to carry out. In EcoTank’s case, they had to change how consumers refill their washer fluid. They had to create a better experience for them, with no spills and no jugs to dispose of. And these dispensers needed to be located where consumers already were. Convenience and having a good product were critical to their success. Today, EcoTank dispensers can be found throughout Eastern Canada, and the numbers continue to grow.

The entrepreneurial experience

When you’re an entrepreneur, there’s never a dull moment—it’s a real roller coaster ride. When Robbie and Jordon started their business during the COVID pandemic, they had just missed out on government funding. And even though they’ve experienced their fair share of challenges, they’ve come a long way since the beginning. Robbie loves all the excitement!

What’s Robbie’s best advice for people starting out? “Have a good support system!” This includes family, friends and mentors. In Robbie and Jordon’s case, they had a lot of help and support from AIR-serv’s Frank Merrill. They’ve also been supported by Intact Insurance, which provides their general liability insurance and the insurance for their fleet of trucks. Environmental causes are very important to Intact, so we’re always happy to collaborate with eco-friendly customers.

Pride and purpose

According to Robbie, “Having purpose is the main requirement for happiness, and having a good product is really important.” There’s nothing more rewarding and reassuring than getting positive feedback, and for consumers, seeing how many plastic jugs they’ve helped keep out of landfills is a feel-good moment, too. Learn more about how EcoTank is revolutionizing how we refill our windshield washer fluid here.

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