Network Rail helps passengers to ditch three million plastic water bottles

By installing drinking fountains at its stations as part of the Refill campaign, Network Rail has helped to mitigate the use of three million single-use plastic water bottles over the past two years.

Pictured: One of the Refill stations at London Euston. Image: Network Rail

Pictured: One of the Refill stations at London Euston. Image: Network Rail

The transport firm today (25 February) posted an update to its membership to City To Sea’s Refill scheme, which aims to make single-use water bottles “a thing of the past” by supporting businesses to install free water refill points, bolstered by communications campaigns.

Network Rail first joined Refill two years ago and, since then, has installed Refill stations at all 20 of its train stations – 11 of which are in London and nine of which are regional. London locations include Waterloo, King’s Cross and London Bridge, while regional stations include Birmingham New Street, Leeds and Edinburgh Waverly.  

Network Rail had recorded one million uses of the fountains as of June 2019 and today revealed they had collectively been used a further two million times since then. The average dispense per use was 500ml.

The Refill facilities at Network Rail stations are signposted using stickers, posters and other communications. They are also listed on City to Sea’s Refill App, which provides interactive maps of every listed station in the UK.

In order to further incentivise uptake, both City to Sea and Network Rail run social media campaigns under hashtags like #RefillRevolution and #GotTheBottle.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Shout out to our partners for helping bring back public water fountains 👏 ⛲️ 💦 Look out for them in a high-street, open space or train station near you! 😍<br> <a href="https://t.co/WIJRHDFk49">https://t.co/WIJRHDFk49</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/50Fountains?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#50Fountains</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RefillRevolution?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RefillRevolution</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/MIWWaterCoolers?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MIWWaterCoolers</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/networkrail?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@networkrail</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/waterlogicuk?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@waterlogicuk</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/UKSustain?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@UKSustain</a> <a href="https://t.co/gut38TfQAw">pic.twitter.com/gut38TfQAw</a></p>&mdash; Refill HQ (@Refill) <a href="https://twitter.com/Refill/status/1230194343383834624?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">February 19, 2020</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

The update from Network Rail came as welcome news to the City To Sea team, who told edie last year that they were keen to target transport hubs to expand Refill, following its success among independent food outlets and high street retailers.

“We know that when people are on the go, this is the time they’re most likely to buy a plastic bottle of water; our research shows 36% of people who regularly carry a reusable water bottle say they would buy a plastic bottle at a train station,” City to Sea’s campaigns manager Steve Hynd said.

“It’s fantastic to have the support of Network Rail and through our partnership with them we are empowering passengers to avoid single-use plastic.”

Refill journey

When Network Rail first joined Refill, it began by trialling one fountain at London Charing Cross. The initiative received such extensive and positive feedback from passengers that it was rapidly made a permanent fixture and rolled out across 18 other stations.

The last Network Rail station to receive water fountains was Leeds, where they were installed in the last quarter of 2019 as part of wider refurbishment works.

Another key supporter of Refill in the transport space is Heathrow Airport.

It is worth noting that Refill’s initial success in 2017 was down to high uptake among the independent café sector. This has been built upon by a swathe of support from food and drink chains - Costa, Starbucks, Bill’s, Leon, Fullers and Byron Burger to name but a few – and other retailers such as Asda, John Lewis & Partners, Neal’s Yard and Seasalt Cornwall.

Across the UK, almost 30,000 Refill points are now listed on City to Sea’s app. The organisation is aiming to have refill networks in every major UK town and city by the end of 2021, and will this year launch its National Refill Day campaign outside of the UK for the first time.

At edie’s Sustainability Leaders Awards 2020 earlier this month, City to Sea won the Consumer Engagement/ Marketing Campaign of the Year Award for National Refill Day.

Sarah George



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