Two Wellington students hope to have a big impact on waste with a project targeting coffee cups and water bottles.

Jeremy Gardiner, 25, and Jack Anderson, 22, have designed a system in which people can take their reusable bottles and coffee cups in for a quick sterilisation and refill while they pay for their gas at the petrol station.

The pair plan to create a business model to pitch the idea to petrol stations around the country once they have left university.

"It's basically about promoting the reuse of our vessels that we've designed," Gardiner said.

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The idea is that people coming into the petrol station can grab a specially designed water bottle out of the fridge next to the Pumps and H2Gos, or a reusable coffee cup made from non-breakable polypropylene, and bring them back for a 30-60 second wash and refill next time they come in.

The bottles would be refilled with filtered water.

"Basically the next time you come in there's a service there to wash your water bottle, because we know that we don't generally clean our water bottles enough."

The students believe having a free service providing cleaning for the cups and bottles would encourage people to use them for longer instead of using and disposing of other vessels.

The system, called Refresh, also comes with an app that would provide a tally for users of how many bottles or cups they had prevented from going into a landfill, how much money they had saved, and would allow them to pre-order their coffee.

"It's really about creating a relationship with the consumer, making them aware of the impact they can have on the environment," Gardiner said.

"With 3.1 million New Zealanders holding a driver's licence and buying petrol at least once a week, we chose to design Refresh to operate in New Zealand petrol stations."

His own research involving a survey of 560 respondents showed 43 per cent owned a reusable water bottle but still bought single-use bottles, "illustrating that the current water bottle doesn't offer enough convenience for the modern consumer".

He said many people would have a reusable coffee cup but no convenient way of washing it, so wouldn't bring it with them because it was usually still dirty.

Figures from Nielsen Researched showed that in 2012, Kiwis spent $60.4 million on bottled water at supermarkets and petrol stations.

Gardiner said they were targeting Generation Y, who were "incredibly impatient", and wanted to give users a fast and easy way to keep using their cups.

When the vessels had done their dash, users could dispose of them in specially designed recycle bins, which would use swipe-card technology to prevent other items being thrown in too.

Gardiner and Anderson have already been dealing with a representative from Z Energy.

If the idea took off, Gardiner expected it to have a "significant" impact on waste.

Their design is part of the end-of-year Exposure exhibition for Massey University's College of Creative Arts, which opens tomorrow.

Other exhibits include a hand-held scanner for measuring the quality of kiwifruit, and a proposed new typeface that would provide visual clues to English speakers about the correct way to pronounce te reo Māori.