Utility firms have launched a new initiative that aims to increase the number of places where people can refill their plastic water bottles for free.
The trade body Water UK is to work with the Refill campaign to expand its programme and ensure people will be able to top up their water bottles for free in every major city and town in England by 2021.
As part of today’s announcement, water companies will work with Refill to develop local action plans by September, which will set out the steps they will take across the country.
The next stage will be to put in place a network of community refill points and a national app to help people find their nearest outlet.
The first business to join the national drinking water scheme is Whitbread, which has today pledged to offer free drinking water for customers and passers-by in all of its Costa Coffee and Premier Inn locations from March.
The Refill scheme is currently operating in 13 towns and cities and people can also use a smart phone app to find out where their nearest refill point is.
The Refill Bristol programme now has more than 200 refill points across Bristol’s city centre.
Refill Bristol has estimated that if every Bristolian refilled a bottle once a week instead of buying a single-use plastic bottle, the city would reduce its plastic bottle consumption by 22.3 million a year.
If replicated around the country, it could lead to a reduction in plastic bottle use in the hundreds of millions.
Today’s announcement by Water UK follows a high-profile speech by the prime minister Theresa May in which she promised to stop all avoidable plastic waste by 2042.
‘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,’ said Water UK’s chief executive, Michael Roberts.
‘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.’
Whitbread’s director of sustainability, James Pitcher, 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.’