Water firms back national scheme to cut plastic bottle use

The water industry has launched a national scheme today (25 January) to cut plastic bottle use by tens of millions each year, while increasing the availability of free drinking water.

Water companies across the UK will join forces with the Refill campaign to create a national network of high street retailers, coffee shops, businesses and local authorities offering stations for the public to refill their water bottles.

The “ambitious drive” will see refill points in every major city and town in England by 2021.

Whitbread, which owns Costa Coffee and Premier Inn, is the first business to join the scheme, having pledged to offer water for customers and passers-by in each of its 3,000 sites from March 2018.

Michael Roberts, chief executive of Water UK, 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 Refill scheme now has more than 1,600 refill stations in 13 towns and cities in England. Water companies currently taking part in four local schemes in England include: Anglian Water in Norwich; Northumbrian Water in Durham; South West Water in Cornwall and Bristol Water in Bristol. 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.

Natalie Fee, founder of City to Sea, the driving force 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.”

James Pitcher, director of sustainability at Whitbread, added: “At Whitbread we are committed to reducing our impact on the environment and playing our part to tackle the issue of plastic waste. We are very much looking forward to participating in this innovative scheme, 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.”

For the first stage of the national scheme, water companies will work with Refill to develop local action plans by September 2018.

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.

The country-wide drive forms part of the government’s 25-year Environment Plan, published earlier this month.

Katey Pigden

This article first appeared on edie’s sister website, Utility Week 

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