Shops, cafes and businesses will offer free water refill points in every major city and town in England by 2021. Industry body Water UK says its scheme could cut disposable plastic bottle use by tens of millions a year. The move comes amid growing concern about the effect of plastic waste on the environment.
Whitbread, which owns Costa Coffee and Premier Inn, is the first to sign up to the initiative and will provide water in all of its branches from March 2018. Refill stations and public fountains will be able to be found via an app or window signs pointing people in the direction of the nearest one. The new scheme has been set up on the back of a previous initiative, the Refill campaign, which currently has more than 1,600 refill stations across the UK and operates in 13 towns and cities in England. Water companies already taking part in local schemes under Refill include Anglian Water in Norwich, Northumbrian Water in Durham, South West Water in Cornwall and Bristol Water in Bristol. In 2015, Bristol adopted the campaign and the city now has more than 200 points. It is estimated that if every city resident in Bristol refilled one bottle once a week, the city could cut the use of disposable bottles by 22.3 million a year. In December, London mayor Sadiq Khan pledged to create 20 new fountains and other bottle-refill points in the city. Water UK’s chief executive, Michael Roberts, said the industry wants to tackle the problems caused by plastic bottle and “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.”