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 today (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 when people are out and about, on the go.
In an ambitious drive to help fight plastic waste, Anglian Water and other 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.
Anglian Water was one of the first to partner with Refill and lead the fight against plastic bottles. Together, Refill has been launched in Norwich and Hunstanton since 2017. Anglian Water has also made all of the cafes at its reservoirs designated refill stations.
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. As well as being able to get drinking water from shops, cafes and businesses, some water companies are 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 today to offer free drinking water for customers and passers-by in each of its 3000 Costa Coffee and Premier Inn locations from March 2018.
Launching the new scheme, Water UK Chief Executive Michael Roberts said: “As an industry with a strong focus on the environment we are passionate about tackling the problems caused by plastic bottles, which clog up rivers and drains, and pollute our seas. By refilling water bottles, we can all help turn this harmful tide of plastic waste. This country has some of the best drinking water in the world and we want everyone to benefit from it. This scheme will do that by making it easier for people to refill their bottles wherever they work, rest, shop or play.”
Emma Staples from Anglian Water said: “Anglian Water stands against all wastefulness, and refill is a fantastic initiative we’re proud to support. It’s vital we address the plastic problem blighting our planet, and reduce plastics directly at their source. And we are lucky to have some of the best quality drinking water in the world, which is good value too, so we want it to be easy for people to access it on-the-go!
“The average household bill for water is just £1.15 a day for everything you might need – washing, bathing and drinking, and all sewerage charges – that’s comparable to the price of one single large bottle of shop-bought water or a take away coffee. Plus after reusing your plastic bottle a couple of times, it effectively becomes carbon neutral. So not only is refilling great for the environment – it’s good for our pockets too.”
The water industry was inspired to create the new initiative by the successful schemes run by the Refill campaign, which now has over 1600 refill stations across the UK. The new partnership between the water industry and Refill will see all water companies in England support the massive expansion of the scheme over the next two years.
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.
Natalie Fee, founder of City to Sea, the organisation behind the Refill scheme, said: “We’ve seen a huge appetite for our Refill campaign across England, from individuals wanting to make a difference in their community to national chains keen to offer free refills to their customers. Our Refill app puts the power to stop plastic pollution in people’s hands – and now thanks to the water industry we’ll be able to help everyone, from local communities to airports, to provide free refills on the go.”
This simple initiative aims to save you money while also saving our environment. Tap water works out at just half a pence a litre, compared to around 70 pence for a small bottle of shop-bought water.
The first stage in delivering the nationwide scheme is for water companies to work with Refill to develop local action plans by September 2018, setting out steps they will take – working with local partners – to drive up access to drinking water locally. This will include the number of refill stations to be available.
The next stage will be to put in place a network of community refill points and a national app to enable the public to find their nearest refill station. This will build on the Refill model of community organisers and the Refill app to ensure country-wide coverage by 2021.
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.