Resource Use

Thames Water unveils pop-up refill points at Countryfile Live

Thames Water unveiled its new pop-up water bottle refill stations at BBC Countryfile Live, held over 2-5 August at Blenheim Palace, in a bid to get people to reduce their single-use plastic waste.

The initiative is part of the water company’s commitment to make free tap water more accessible for people on the move, playing into its #taptasticnotplastic campaign to reduce single-use plastic waste.

Around 7.7 billion plastic drinking bottles are used and disposed of yearly in the UK, contributing to the pollution of UK waterways and leading to large quantities of plastic waste ending up in the oceans.

Thames Water unveils pop-up refill points at Countryfile Live
Thames Water's refill stations are made in partnership with MIW Water Cooler Experts.

The refill stations used at Countryfile Live, which saw 120,266 visitors in 2017, were supplied by British firm MIW Water Cooler Experts. Each refill station – named the ‘MIW Marathon’ – weighs 48 kilogrammes and is sturdy enough to withstand heavy use and jostling from the public. It can be placed practically anywhere that there is access to an above-ground water tap, be that an office space, a shopping centre or a street party. It requires no power, and all drainage is discretely taken care of at the rear of the unit, with a drip tray feeding two 10-litre containers securely stored out of public view.

Earlier this year, MIW helped establish the London Drinking Fountain Fund as part of the #OneLess project, which works to reduce the amount of disposable plastic bottles in circulation. MIW was also behind the drinking fountains installed in Borough Market, London Zoo, Wimbledon Tennis Club and Heathrow Airport.

Becky Johnson, a Thames Water spokesperson, said: “Our new fountains were really popular, with visitors topping up with our world-class tap water over 50,000 times. Together, we’re all making a huge difference in reducing pointless plastic waste and helping protect our planet.”

Mike Winter, Managing Director of MIW Water Cooler Experts, commented: “Thames Water supplies our capital with some of the best quality water in the world – and now it’s easier than ever for people to access free, great tasting, chilled water – rather than buying a single use plastic bottle which is thrown away. These latest models of outdoor refill stations are specially designed to be durable, fast and accessible to those with physical disabilities, making them ideal for high traffic public areas.”

Refill movement

Thames Water and MIW’s initiative is the latest in a series of similar interventions to encourage people to refill their water bottles at public refill points rather than buy new single-use plastic bottles.

The main driver behind this is the Refill movement, set up by Bristol campaign group City to Sea, which seeks to tackle plastic pollution with a network of free-to-use water points across the country. Refill projects have already been set up in towns and cities such as Bristol, Bath and Banbury, while London launched a trial across some areas of the capital back in March.

At a national level, the concept has received the backing of the Welsh Government, with Welsh Environment Minister Hannah Blythyn stating her ambition to see Wales to become the world’s first ‘Refill Nation’. Free drinking water points have been set up in key communities along the 870-mile Wales Coast Path as part of the first stage of the Welsh Government’s plans to increase the provision of free drinking water across the country and reduce the consumption of single-use plastics.

Despite much progress, the Refill movement still has a long way to go to change the public’s attitude to public tap water – research by litter reduction charity Keep Britain Tidy and water filter manufacturer BRITA UK last year revealed that 71 per cent of people felt uncomfortable asking for tap water from businesses, even though it is the law that all licensed premises must provide water free of charge.

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