Water UK Announces Plans for Nationwide Refilling Stations
In an ambitious step forward to reduce the amount of waste created by plastic bottles, UK Water has announced a scheme to introduce free refill stations across the country by 2021.
More than 35 million plastic bottles are used every day in the UK alone, almost half of which are not recycled, with many finding their way into the nation's waterways and the sea. The Marine Conservation Society's 2017 beach clean event reported 10 plastic bottles for every 100m of coastline, accounting only for those that have washed up on the beaches.
The water industry estimates that the new scheme will 'cut plastic bottle use by tens of millions each year', as well as increasing the availability of high-quality drinking water.
The project aims to create more than10,000 free filling stations in bars, cafes, restaurants and other businesses, as well as installing new public drinking fountains and restoring others which have fallen into disuse.
Inspiration from the scheme came from the Refill campaign, which currently has around 1,600 refill stations in 13 locations UK, and an app which users can download to find their nearest source of water.
'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,' says Natalie Fee, founder of City to Sea, the organisation which is the driving force behind the Refill scheme. '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.'
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.'
The first business to sign up for the scheme is Whitbread plc, which has pledged to offer free drinking water to both customers and passers-by in each of its 3000 Premier Inn and Costa Coffee outlets from March 2018.
'This is great news and another step forward in reducing the amount of plastics in our seas and on our beaches,' says Dr Sue Kinsey, Senior Pollution Policy Officer at MCSUK. 'Using bottled water in the UK is not only a waste of resources but creates huge amounts of waste and costs consumers millions of pounds every year. By using a refillable water bottle not only are we helping the environment we are also saving money.'
Regional water companies will work with Refill to develop local action plans by September 2018, after which they will begin to implement initiatives and resources in order to expand the Refill app and project nationwide.