Community refill scheme drive continues with Bicester and Banbury

The Oxfordshire towns of Banbury and Bicester have become the latest to commit to fighting plastic pollution through a refillable water bottle scheme after launching a Refill scheme in the area.

The Refill scheme, first launched by anti-plastic pollution charity City to Sea in Bristol in September 2015, is now present in eleven towns, connecting thirsty pedestrians with cafes, restaurants, shops and local businesses who have signed up to the scheme to offer free tap water refills.

Some 30 local businesses have signed up so far in Banbury and Bicester, registering with an app and placing a sticker in their windows to alert people that they are a Refill site, regardless of whether they are a customer or not.

The scheme, which was officially launched by Banbury MP Victoria Prentis (right) in a bottle filling ceremony today (8 September), aims to make refilling your water bottle on the go a lot easier in order to keep people hydrated in a cheap and easy way, while also reducing plastic bottle waste.

Research by Bicester-based business BRITA UK, which is sponsoring the local scheme, and Keep Britain Tidy has revealed that 59 per cent of the British public would be keen to use a reusable water bottle if it were easier to refill in places like shops, airports and parks. The Refill app aims to remove these obstacles to staying hydrated on the move.

Meanwhile, embarrassment also seems to be holding people back, with 71 per cent uncomfortable asking for free tap water in a shop or pub without ordering something else, while 37 per cent feel awkward even when making a purchase, despite it being English law for licensed premises to offer free refills, although not all establishments that are open to the public.

The need to tackle plastic bottle pollution in the UK is as pressing as ever. As a nation, the UK uses 7.7 billion single-use plastic bottles every year, causing significant pollution and using up valuable resources, as well as being expensive to produce. As many as 800 plastic bottles a minute are estimated to end up in landfill or as litter, with much of them entering the UK’s waterways or the marine environment, causing serious damage to marine life.

In fact, a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation has claimed that if current pollution rates continue as they are now, we could be looking at a situation where there will be more plastic in the sea than fish by 2050.

A well-received scheme

“We all know how important it is to stay hydrated on the go, but it can be really difficult to find somewhere to fill up for free or get a glass of water,” said Sarah Taylor, Managing Director of BRITA UK.

“Unfortunately that often means people purchase plastic bottles that will then be thrown away, causing long-term damage to the marine environment and increasing the amount of litter in our public spaces. The Refill scheme is a practical solution to this problem and I would encourage all businesses in Bicester and Banbury to sign up.”

Victoria Prentis, MP for Banbury, added: “Disposable bottles can be so damaging to the environment, but they are often hard to avoid, especially when out and about. The simplest solutions are usually the most effective; Refill enables people to do their bit while going about their everyday lives.

“We can see a similar arrangement in action with London’s Borough Market introducing free water fountains as part of a pledge to phase out single-use plastic bottles over the next six months.  There is definitely scope for this to be a national model. ”

Borough Market introduces new hygienic drinking fountains for refilling

The Borough Market scheme was introduced last month in an effort to phase out all sales of single-use plastic bottles within six months.

This has seen the iconic market introduce drinking new fountains that are designed specifically for outside use and are hygienic, vandal-proof and freeze resistant.

The Endura II 4430BF fountain, created by Halsey Taylor, is made from 75 per cent recycled materials and has so far been used at London Zoo, Wimbledon Tennis Club and Heathrow Airport.

The fountain has two streams of water to drink from and another to refill reusable water bottles, shrouding the water dispensers so users can’t put their mouths directly on the spouts, ensuring that the water supply is hygienic.

The Refill app and more information can be found on the Refill Project's website

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