Banbury and Bicester have this week joined the campaign to protect the marine environment and cut litter levels by reducing the reliance on disposable plastic water bottles, following the launch of the Refill scheme in the area.
Some 20 local businesses have already signed up to the initiative, which seeks to connect thirsty people with cafes, shops and offices willing to offer free tap water refills. Participating businesses register with an app and also place a sticker in their window alerting passers-by that they are a Refill site, regardless of whether they are customers or not.
The local scheme, which is sponsored by Bicester-based business BRITA UK and has the backing of Victoria Prentis MP, aims to make refilling a reusable water bottle on the go and staying hydrated as easy, convenient and cheap as possible. Research conducted by BRITA UK and Keep Britain Tidy earlier this year revealed that 59% of us would be more likely to use a reusable water bottle if refills were more freely available in places such as shops, airports and parks.
Research has shown a reduction in the number of water fountains around the country, but English law currently only requires licensed premises to offer free refills, not all establishments that are open to the public. And BRITA’s research found that embarrassment is holding people back; with 71% of people uncomfortable asking for free tap water without buying something else and 37% awkward even if they are making a purchase. The Refill app aims to remove any obstacles to drinking on the go in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.
Britons use 7.7bn single-use plastic bottles every year despite the fact that these are expensive to produce, use up valuable natural resources to make and transport, and create mountains of waste. An estimated 800 plastic bottles a minute are either ending up in landfill or as litter, which will too often make its way into our waterways and out to sea, causing severe damage to marine life such as whales, dolphins and turtles.
Banbury and Bicester are the tenth and eleventh towns in England to sign up to Refill, which was first launched by anti-plastic pollution charity City to Sea in Bristol in September 2015 and is now live in cities including Bath and Norwich. The Banbury and Bicester refill scheme was officially launched by Victoria Prentis at a bottle filling ceremony at FLTR Coffee cafe today.
Sarah Taylor, Managing Director of BRITA UK, said: ‘BRITA UK is delighted to be supporting the launch of Refill in Bicester and Banbury. 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. 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, said: ‘I am thrilled to launch the Refill scheme in Banbury and Bicester. 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. I am really looking forward to seeing how the scheme develops locally and am very grateful to Brita for their generous support.’
Natalie Fee, founder of City to Sea, said: ‘Thanks to our partnership with BRITA UK, shoppers and commuters in Banbury and Bicester will never have to buy expensive, environmentally catastrophic bottled water again! Our free Refill rewards app means you’ll be able to find free refills in your local area and earn points as you go – helping you to remember to take your reusable bottle out with you when you leave the house!’