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Love water not plastic

By Rebecca Burgess, CEO of City to Sea

This month is #PlasticFreeJuly and to celebrate this awesome month of action against single-use plastic, we’ve offered up this space to our long-standing partners City to Sea to talk about our successful campaign Refill.

A lot has happened since City to Sea and Water UK became partners in 2018. During this time, Water UK and water companies across England are helping to increase the availability of free drinking water to the public and reduce plastic pollution.  Thanks to the support from the water industry, Refill has become a multi-award-winning national movement with over 26,000 Refill stations, and over a quarter of a million downloads of the Refill app. Together, we’ve prevented over 100 million plastic water bottles from entering our waste stream.

So, what’s the problem with bottled water I hear you ask? Well in the UK we throw away 7.7 billion plastic water bottles a year, despite us having some of the best quality drinking water in the world! To make matters worse, an estimated 15 million bottles are littered, landfilled or incinerated every day. This is believed to produce up to 233,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year. It’s therefore no surprise that plastic bottles are in the top 10 most found items on beaches across Europe.

During lockdown we shifted our Refill focus away from ‘on-the-go’ and towards the home environment. With 1 in 3 people in the UK still buying bottled water to drink at home, we need to encourage people to choose tap water instead. With support from Northumbrian Water and Bristol Water, a qualitative research project is underway to better understand the reasons behind bottled water consumption at home. Alongside this, we launched a digital engagement campaign #TappyHour on Earth Day (22nd April) to highlight the environmental impact of drinking bottled water at home and celebrate tap water. This child friendly campaign connected us all over a virtual drink to enjoy a tap water mocktail with water straight from our taps, inspired by weekly recipe suggestions for different ways to enjoy tap water at home, reaching 1,631,240 people between April and June.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, we’ve also been working with experts, including Water UK, to provide guidance to reassure businesses offering tap water refills and help build confidence with the public that reusable containers are safe to use. We’re excited to be continuing our partnership with Water UK into 2021 and working alongside water companies to help prevent the equivalent of four billion plastic bottles from entering the environment by 2020.

Plastic Free July highlights some of the positive behaviour changes we can make in our daily lives to help turn the tide on plastics for good. One simple action everyone can take is to switch to a reusable bottle, download the Refill app and start refilling on the go.