New drinking water scheme to cut plastic bottle use by millions

Retailers, coffee shops, businesses and local authorities in every major city and town across England will offer free refill stations for people to top-up their water bottles by 2021.


Water UK said today that the national scheme would cut plastic bottle use by tens of millions each year, while substantially increasing the availability of high quality drinking water.

People will be able to use an app on their phone to find out where the nearest refill point is, or look out for signs in shop windows, while some companies are looking at installing new public water fountains or restoring old ones.

“By refilling water bottles, we can all help turn this harmful tide of plastic waste,” Water UK chief executive Michael Roberts said.

“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.”

It is estimated that only around half of the 38.5 million plastic bottles used in the UK every day are recycled, with 16 million ending up in landfill, being burnt, or entering the environment and waterways.

The idea for a national water top-up initiative was inspired by successful schemes run by the Refill campaign, which now has over 1,600 refill stations across 13 towns and cities in England.

Refill Bristol has estimated that if every Bristolian refilled a bottle once a week instead of buying a new one, the city would reduce consumption by 22.3 million a year, and that it could be cut by hundred of millions if replicated around the country.

It was also found that people who buy a half-litre bottle of still water typically pay around 30p in shops, compared to a twelfth of a penny for the equivalent volume of tap water, making it 360 times cheaper.

James Pitcher, director of sustainability at Whitbread plc, which owns Costa Coffee and Premier Inn, said: “We are committed to reducing our impact on the environment and playing our part to tackle the issue of plastic waste.

“With over 3,000 Costa stores, Premier Inn hotels and restaurants the length and breadth of the country, we can make it easier for people to refill for free, helping to reduce the number of plastic bottles being littered or thrown away.”



Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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