Skip to content
Networks
Plastic bottle pollution

News item

National Refill Day

  • 85% of the public are worried about the impact of plastic pollution

  • John Lewis and Morrisons are the latest high street chains to sign up to provide free drinking water for all

  • Surge in use of reusable bottles amid concerns about the environment

  • A partnership between the water industry and City to Sea’s Refill campaign could save a billion bottles by 2025 with Refill Stations on every high street across the UK.

The UK public are being urged to ditch single use plastic water bottles and switch to a reusable water bottle as part of a national day of action to cut plastic pollution today (Thursday 27th September).

The first ever National Refill Day comes as it’s revealed that an overwhelming majority of the British public are concerned about plastic pollution. The survey, by One Poll commissioned by City to Sea, shows that 85% of the public are worried about the impact of plastic pollution in the environment, and indicates that more people than ever are switching to reusable bottle instead of buying bottles of water in shops. 80% of people surveyed this month now use a reusable water bottle, at least sometimes, when outside the home. 44% of people using a reusable bottle have made the switch in the last 2 years and 18% have switched in the last year.

However, there are still barriers to people carrying a reusable bottle – the research showed that more people in the UK would ask to refill a reusable bottle (even if not making a purchase), if they knew where they could fill up for free. 33% of people still feel very or somewhat uncomfortable asking to have their reusable bottle filled when NOT making a purchase.

In the UK 7.7 billion plastic water bottles are used each year, with the average person in the UK now using 150 plastic water bottles every year – that’s more than 3 a week. Many are discarded, and end up polluting our rivers and seas. Staggeringly if just 1 in 10 Brits Refilled just once a week, we’d save around 340 million plastic bottles a year.

Refill, City to Sea’s award-winning campaign to get people ditching single-use water bottles in favour of reusable bottle, is the UK’s leading ‘app for tap’ – connecting people looking for water with businesses, water fountains and transport hubs where they can refill for free on the go.

City to Sea and Water UK, the trade body for companies supplying our tap water, joined forces in January this year to grow the campaign from a local grassroots scheme to a national movement. Water UK’s funding has created an ambitious drive to help fight plastic waste. As part of the partnership, every water company in England aims to ensure people can refill their water bottles in every major town and city across the UK by 2021. The partnership could save a billion bottles by 2025 with Refill Stations on every high street across the UK. The weight of plastic saved by removing one billion plastic bottles is equal to 12,700 metric tonnes, or just under 13 million kilograms. That’s the equivalent of around 50 eurotunnel trains, or more than 2,100 African bush elephants.

The Refill campaign works by connecting people who are looking for water with thousands of local business, transport hubs and public spaces using a free app. Participating cafes, bars, restaurants, banks, galleries, museums and other businesses simply sign up to the app and put a sticker in their window – alerting passers-by that they’re welcome to come on in and fill up their bottle, even without a purchase.

There are now over 12,000 Refill Stations listed on the app in the UK, including train stations, airports and high street chains like Starbucks, Costa and Greggs. It’s being revealed today that John Lewis has now become the first department store to join the refill revolution, and Morrisons are the first supermarket to sign up to the scheme. Heathrow airport has also become the first official transport hub to sign up to the scheme and are pioneering the reduction of plastic bottle pollution in the aviation sector.

The app has recently been redeveloped to include a handy bottle reminder – good news for the 35% of people surveyed who said the main reason they bought plastic bottles was because they forgot their reusable bottle.

The Refill campaign has money-saving benefits for customers too. A half-litre bottle of still water typically costs from around 30p in supermarkets to anything up to £2 in motorway service stations, compared to a twelfth of a penny for the equivalent volume of tap water.

Refill and Water UK urging the UK public to get involved with National Refill Day by downloading the free app, carrying their reusable bottle and refilling on the go and sharing their involvement on social media using #NationalRefillDay and #RefillRevolution.

Natalie Fee, founder and CEO of City to Sea, said;

“It’s been incredible to watch the campaign flourish over the past two years. We wanted to do something that everyone could get onboard with, that would drastically reduce the amount of pointless plastic we use when we’re out and about. People want to help stop plastic pollution, and Refill puts the power to do just that in peoples’ hands.”

Michael Roberts, Chief Executive of Water UK, the trade body representing all of the major water companies in the 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. On National Refill Day, people can help turn this harmful tide of plastic waste by downloading the app and switching to a re-suable bottle. 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 for free wherever they work, rest, shop or play.”

The survey for Refill undertaken by One Poll revealed that people aged over 55 were most concerned about plastic pollution, with 92% worried about the environmental impact of plastic pollution compared to 76% of 25-34 year olds. These concerns about plastic pollution are reflected in the behaviour of those surveyed – 79% of older people (55+) were actively trying to reduce the amount of plastic they use, compared to 58% of 25-34 year olds and 67% of 18-24 year olds.

Again, it’s the older generations leading the trend – those aged 45-54 were the most likely to carry a reusable bottle most of the time, compared to just 36% of 25-34 year olds. 57% of those aged 55+ use a reusable bottle because they concerned about the environmental impact of plastic bottles. Only 28% of those aged 18-24 are concerned about the environmental impact of plastic bottles.

Single-use plastic bottles are expensive to produce, use up valuable natural resources to make and transport, and create mountains of waste once they’ve been used and discarded. So far, recycling does not appear to be adequately dealing with the problem, as it’s estimated that only around half of the 38.5 million plastic bottles used in the UK every day are recycled, with around 16 million ending up in landfill, being burnt, or entering the environment and waterways.

The drive to improve public health in the UK in Victorian times saw the introduction of more modern drinking water fountains, particularly in London following the ‘Great Stink’ of 1858. Victorian philanthropists gained support for a plan to provide clean drinking water in poor areas, and the first fountain was opened on 21st April 1859 in a corner of Holy Sepulchre churchyard in Snow Hill in London’s Holborn area. Many further drinking fountains were placed close to churches or churchyards, but later drinking fountains were often placed near pubs to give the thirsty public an alternative to drinking beer.

ENDS

Notes to editors

The Refill campaign was launched in 2014 in Bude by local volunteer Deb Rosser with support from Keep Britain Tidy and South West Water. City to Sea, an award-winning community interest company (CIC) campaigning to stop marine plastic pollution at source, then launched the scheme in Bristol, before partnering with Water UK and all the major English water companies in 2018 to help deliver Refill all across the country.

City to Sea was founded by environmental campaigner, Natalie Fee in 2015. In June 2018 the Refill scheme won the 2018 Global Good Awards.

There are now over 12,000 Refill Stations listed on the app including: Whitbreads Inns, Premier Inn, Costa Coffee, Starbucks, Greggs (pilot), Wetherspoons, Fullers, Wholefoods, Better Foods (Bristol), Leon, Nando’s (pilot), Pure, Mildreds, Bill’s Cafe/Restaurant, Thomas the Baker (Yorkshire), FRISKA, John Lewis, Morrisons Café.

Natalie Fee is an environmental campaigner revolutionising the way we think about plastic pollution. She was recently announced as one of Nesta’s 50 New Radicals.

Water UK is the trade body representing all of the major water and wastewater companies in the UK. Next year the water industry will have invested around £25 billion into environmental work since 1995, putting in more advanced treatment methods to improve the quality of our waterways. This action will mean around 10000 miles of UK rivers have been improved and protected since 1995.

John Lewis: Eoghan Griffin, Partner and Corporate Responsibility Manager said:
“We’re delighted to support the Refill Initiative and hope our customers and the public make use of the brilliant new app to minimise their use of single use plastics”

Steven Butts, Head of Corporate Services at Morrisons said:
“Our customers want us to make it easier for them to live their lives with less plastic. We are pleased to be working with Refill on their initiative helping our customers and the public to easily locate Morrisons stores where they can refill their water bottles for free.”

Chilly’s: City to Sea have partnered with Chilly’s Bottles, a leading reusable bottle brand who offer co-branded Refill x Chilly’s Bottles – donating £10 from every bottle sold to help fund City to Sea’s Refill campaign. Chilly’s have reported a huge increase in sales in recent months with almost 4,000 units sold over the past two months alone.

James Butterfield CEO of Chilly’s says:
“Here at Chilly’s, we believe strongly in the switch from single-use plastic to reusable products. But for this switch to be sustained and accessible for all, the ability to access water easily and quickly is vital. National Refill Day is an incredible opportunity to celebrate this priceless network of ever-growing Refill stations: To raise awareness of reusable products… and the water that goes in them!”

Join the Pipe: Amsterdam based foundation Join the Pipe have been announced as the preferred partner for Refill Stations for Refill UK. Committed to reducing the amount of plastic waste produced worldwide and promoting drinking tap water, Join the Pipe supply water stations for public places and sell reusable bottles to both individuals and companies. Developed for both indoor and outdoor use, the pipes offer sustainable still, sparkling and chilled water. For further information visit https://join-the-pipe.org/eng/.