People will be able to refill water bottles for free in tens of thousands of places in England in future following the announcement of a new national scheme by the water industry on Thursday 25th January 2018. It’s estimated that the new scheme will cut plastic bottle use by tens of millions each year as well as substantially increasing the availability of high quality drinking water.
In an ambitious drive to help fight plastic waste, water companies will join forces with the Refill campaign to create a national network of high street retailers, coffee shops, businesses and local authorities offering new refill stations for the public to top-up their water bottles for free in every major city and town in England by 2021. People will be able to use an app on their phone to find out where the nearest refill point is, or look out for special signs in shop windows. Some water companies are also looking at installing new public drinking fountains and restoring some historical ones which have fallen into disuse.
The first business to join the national drinking water scheme is Whitbread plc, which has pledged to offer free drinking water for customers and passers-by in each of its 3000 Costa Coffee and Premier Inn locations from March 2018.
As an example of what could be achieved nationally by the new initiative, the Refill Bristol scheme which launched in September 2015 now has more than 200 refill points across Bristol’s city centre. Refill Bristol has estimated that if every Bristolian refilled a bottle once a week instead of buying a single-use plastic bottle, the city would reduce its plastic bottle consumption by 22.3 million a year. If replicated around the country, it could lead to a reduction in plastic bottle use in the hundreds of millions.
The current Refill scheme, now happening in 13 towns and cities in England, encourages participating cafes, bars, restaurants, banks, galleries, museums and other businesses to sign up to a free app and put a sticker in their window alerting passers-by to the fact they’re welcome to fill up their bottle for free.
There are money-saving benefits for customers too. A half-litre bottle of still water typically costs around 30p in shops, compared to a twelfth of a penny for the equivalent volume of tap water – meaning water for customers who fill up bottles from a tap in their own home is 360 times cheaper than if they get it from a supermarket. The cost if they get it from one of the new refill points will be zero.
Single-use plastic bottles are expensive to produce, use up valuable natural resources to make and transport, and create mountains of waste once they’ve been used and discarded. So far, recycling does not appear to be adequately dealing with the problem, as it’s estimated that only around half of the 38.5 million plastic bottles used in the UK every day are recycled, with around 16 million ending up in landfill, being burnt, or entering the environment and waterways.
Further information can be found at https://www.refill.org.uk/