London to pilot water bottle refill scheme to slash plastic waste

Major firms including Costa Coffee, Leon and Whole Foods will offer tap water refills across London stores as part of a pilot scheme to slash single-use plastic bottles in the capital.

The Refill London project, run by Thames Water and campaign group City to Sea, involves 65 businesses, venues and shops across the city, including the likes of BFI Imax and Tate Modern.

It will be trialled in five areas in London: Greenwich town centre, Lewisham high street, the Southbank and Bankside, Regent street and London Bridge.

People can see which outlets are involved by downloading a free Refill London app, and businesses are being urged to get on board with the voluntary scheme.

City to Sea founder Natalie Fee said: “Refill puts the power to stop plastic pollution in people’s hands – it’s a fantastically easy way to reduce your plastic consumption and save money at the same time.

“Businesses can add themselves to the app too and help create the wave of change needed to keep plastic bottles out of the Thames!” 

‘Long overdue’

Londoners buy more than three plastic bottles every week on average – equating to 175 bottles every year per person. It is thought around 7.7 billion plastic bottles are bought across the UK each year.

Participating shops and businesses of the new project will have ‘refill’ stickers in their windows letting people know they are offering free tap water. The scheme could be rolled out across the capital over the summer should it prove a success.

City Hall is part of the programme, as London Mayor Sadiq Khan prepares to install new public water fountains across London over the next three years.

“A free tap water scheme is long overdue in London and I welcome all of the retailers and business who have shown their strong commitment to reducing unnecessary plastic waste by joining the London Refill scheme,” Khan said.

The Mayor hopes it will help him achieve an ambition for London to send no biodegradable or recyclable waste to landfill by 2026. Khan is also considering the potential for a plastic bottle deposit return scheme that gives money back for recycling bottles.

The deposit scheme concept has already been backed by the likes of Lidl, Tesco, Co-op, Iceland and Aldi.

George Ogleby

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie