Plastic waste: pushing the pledge to refill

It’s been a busy couple of weeks here at FRANK Water. We have stopped selling our Devon spring water in single-use plastic bottles and we have launched a new campaign to encourage everyone to carry refillable water bottles and coffee cups and to ‘pledge to refill’.

But we’re a small social enterprise and we know that to make our pebble drop seem like a boulder splash, we need to encourage as many friends and supporters as possible to get on board to influence and change the way we stay hydrated while on the move.

Since launching the campaign we have seen sales of refillable bottles increase and have been contacted by numerous new potential stockists and partners who want to support our work. And our message is being shared among other like-minded organisations and movements.

Pat Fitzsimons, director at Thames Estuary Partnership, says:

‘Everyone here at Thames Estuary Partnership is thrilled with the news that FRANK Water has discontinued selling spring water in single-use plastic. Our determination to slow the rising tide of single-use plastic bottles in the Thames can only be strengthened by FRANK Water’s #PledgeToRefill campaign and we shall be urging all our supporters to sign up. FRANK’s work in India and Nepal highlights the importance of valuing our incredible clean water and sanitation systems here in the UK where we just don’t need to buy drinks in one-use packaging.’

However, we recognise that we have a long journey ahead of us and that it’s going to take a massive culture change to stem the flow of single-use plastic bottles and cups into landfills and waterways.

As a social enterprise with a charitable mission to change the lives of the hardest to reach people in communities in India and Nepal, we have known for a while that we must move away from bottling water in single-use plastic but it’s going to hit our bottom line and we’ve yet to find out how that might affect our ability to continue our life saving work.

Yet there is hope and plenty of optimism about the future among those working to augment the small changes we are all making to reduce our reliance on plastic.

I attended a brilliant evening organised by the RAW Foundation at the Royal Geographical Society on May 31 at which I heard many great, influential speakers talking about practical solutions to our plastic habit, as well as two young sisters, Amy and Ella Meek, talk about their mission to fight disposable plastic.

Their passion and energy was both humbling and infectious – the whole room was moved by their talk and I came away confident that our small change can and will make a difference for the planet and future generations.

Here in the UK we take safe, clean drinking water and access to sanitation for granted. In the parts of rural India and Nepal where we work with field partners to support communities to find sustainable ways to access safe, clean, fresh water, there isn’t the same embedded culture of sanitation and education around the importance of drinking and using safe water.

It’s not unusual for women (and their children, specifically girls) to walk miles every day to fill buckets and pots with water from unsafe water sources.

When I started selling bottled Devon spring water, from the back of my van, at festivals and events across the West Country in 2005, I never imagined that 12 years later FRANK Water would have changed the lives of over 330,000 people.

During that time we’ve campaigned to have public water fountains reinstated across Bristol, have provided a ‘refill’ service at festivals and music events across the UK (at Love Saves The Day Festival in Bristol this week we refilled over 18,000 bottles with chilled filtered water, potentially saving the equivalent number of single-use plastic bottles) and we have worked with colleagues and partner organisations in Bristol to launch Refill – an online app that shows users where they can refill their water bottles free of charge when out and about at participating cafes and restaurants.

It is this progress – and the knowledge that we are not doing this alone – that gives me hope that the next 12 years will be just as crucial in our fight to make access to clean, safe water a reality for thousands more people and to continue to support our friends across the environmental sector further reduce plastic waste.

Photo by Jon Lewin

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Katie Alcott

Katie Alcott

Founder and CEO, FRANK Water

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