Welsh Coast Path first location for Wales Refill scheme
Free public access to drinking water will be made available in key communities along the 870-mile Wales Coast Path as part 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.
Speaking today (5 June) at an Environmental Summit at the Cardiff stage of the Volvo Ocean Race – the prestigious round-the-world yacht race – Environment Minister Hannah Blythyn announced that the Wales Coast Path would be the first location for the nationwide Refill scheme for Wales, as part of the Welsh Government’s recently announced ambition to become the world’s first ‘refill’ nation.
The Refill movement, set up by Bristol campaign group City to Sea, seeks to tackle plastic pollution with a network of free-to-use water points which reduces the need for single-use plastic bottles. The Welsh Government is planning on working with City to Sea to extend the campaign into Wales, promoting the consumption of tap water as opposed to water sold in single-use bottles.
As part of the first stage of the rollout announced by Blythyn on the UN’s World Environment Day – the theme of which for 2018 is ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’ – the Environment Minister has committed to delivering Refill into communities along the Wales Coast Path within the next year. The Welsh Government will work with towns, villages and food and drink businesses to sign up to become refill points. Those signed up to this drive to decrease the use of single-use plastics in Wales will be visible to walkers through window stickers and be listed in a bilingual Refill app, providing the public with a list of locations where free drinking water is available, making it easier for them to refill their water bottles.
Blythyn said: “I’m delighted to announce today that the Wales Coast Path will be the first location in our drive to make Wales the world’s first refill nation.
“Wales is the first country in the world to have a dedicated footpath that stretches the entire coastline and we as a government are very much looking forward to working with the communities along these 870 glorious miles to curb the use of single-use plastic. This is just the first step in our ambition to become the world’s first ‘Refill nation’.
“More refill points along our coast will help reduce the number of plastic bottles ending up in the sea, which can have a devastating effect on our marine environment. 2018 is Wales’ Year of the Sea and with the Volvo Ocean Race here in Cardiff, it’s great to be able to make this announcement at the Environment Summit, which is an important step towards eliminating plastic from our seas.”
Anne-Cecile Turner, Volvo Ocean Race Sustainability Programme Leader, commented: “By committing to reduce plastic waste through the coast path refill scheme, Wales has, yet again, shown true global leadership in the continuing fight to address the impacts plastic pollution is having on our seas and the vast range of biodiversity they support.
“Collectively, we have a unique opportunity to preserve our Blue Planet. The Ocean Summit plays a vital role in helping to solve this crisis and announcements such as the Welsh Government's only help to amplify that message and the need for urgent action.”
Clare Pillman, Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales (NRW), which manages the Wales Coast Path on behalf of the Welsh Government, added: “I am delighted that the iconic Wales Coast Path is to play a leading role in Wales’ refill ambitions. NRW is committed to supporting this initiative in order to help protect our fantastic marine environment.
“Taking steps to eliminate avoidable waste will ensure that we manage our limited resources in a better way, which is good for the people, economy and environment of Wales.”
The support of the Welsh Government for Refill adds to the movement’s rapidly growing momentum against the backdrop of the 7.7 billion plastic drinking bottles thrown away in the UK every year, with Refill projects being set up in towns and cities such as Bristol, Bath, Banbury and even London, where a trial Refill scheme was launched in March.
Blythyn also took the opportunity to announce that the £6.5-million Circular Economy Capital Investment fund – launched last year by Blythyn’s predecessor, Lesley Griffiths, and set to begin in 2019 – would prioritise the recycling of plastics and help Welsh businesses manufacturing plastic to increase the recycled content of their products, keeping resources in circulation locally instead of being exported for recycling elsewhere, used as a fuel or ending up in landfill.
This follows a number of other recent announcements from the Welsh Government of additional funding to help businesses and local authorities move towards a circular economy; £15 million of capital funding to improve local authority recycling collection systems and infrastructure was committed in May, in addition to the £7.5 million of funding announced in February for the 2017/18 financial year.