Carrying a reusable water bottle saves money, effort, but most importantly – the planet. Refill, an app designed to connect people with their nearest taps, where they can fill up their water bottle for free, aims to change the way we think about consumption.
Ever felt thirsty and dehydrated while running errands out and about in London, or had work all day, so you popped up to the nearest supermarket to grab a bottle of water? It’s the quick fix.
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But by solving one problem, we as consumers feed into one that’s much bigger. Buying a plastic bottle might not seem like a big deal, as it’s easily disposable.
Only nine per cent of the plastic waste produced in 2015 has been recycled. The rest is dumped in the ocean and eventually creates a chain of contamination to the food we consume, the air we breathe and the beaches we love.
What can be done?
To try to prevent that, a group of young environmentalists from Bristol started the non-profit organisation City to Sea. Their main goal was to stop single-use plastic from reaching the water cycle and to change the convenience culture surrounding plastic use.
Refill, one of their most successful campaigns, is a location-based app which shows a map of the nearest ‘water refilling stations’. This could be anything – a jug of tap water in a cafe, a tap behind the bar or a water fountain in a public library. The only requirement is to be publicly accessible.
In London, there are currently more than 3,000 refilling stations. With the support of big retailers such as Pret-a-Manger and Greggs, who have agreed to have all of their shops onboard, the map keeps expanding.
Here’s a quick guide to using the app.
As one of their most recent campaigns in the capital, Refill brings The Mayor of London and Thames Water together to create more than 100 new water fountains in busy and easily accessible spots around London over 18 months.
Two brand new @MayorofLondon/@ThamesWater drinking fountains in:
💧 #Tolworth Broadway, @RBKingston
💧 Mayow Park, @LewishamCouncil
Ditch the #PointlessPlastics and join the #RefillRevolution. Find all fountains/@Refill stations on the app:https://t.co/HHWVzqNkvE pic.twitter.com/gYkwBsbPTE
— LDNMayor Environment (@LDN_environment) November 28, 2019
The future of Refill
Talking to the Voice of London, Natalie Taylor, Refill London Coordinator, says: “The sales of bottled water are still increasing despite having that as a solution, so we are looking into changing behaviours in people carrying reusable bottles.”
She also shares the future plans for the campaign to go beyond just drinking water. Pilots have started in Bristol and Oxford for the Refill app to show where it would be possible for a customer to bring their own coffee cup or a reusable food container, further reducing the plastic waste.
The average Londoner buys a disposable water bottle at least three times a week, according to #OneLess Campaign. This makes for a staggering 175 bottles a year, which go to waste and are in most cases never recycled.
The bigger culprit
However, the issue stretches far beyond. An audit conducted by Break Free From Plastic, reveals that Coca-Cola is once again the biggest plastic polluter. Thousands of volunteers across 51 countries participated in clean-ups, collecting 476,423 pieces of plastic waste.
Although more than half of the products were unbranded, it remained evident who the most prominent polluters are.
Throwaway culture can be fatal for the future of the planet. The way we think, buy and consume has to rapidly change to avoid greater damage. Drinking water sustainably is the first, and probably the most essential step to take.
The Refill app is available on the App Store and Google Play.
Words: Maria Astardjieva | Photos: Refill, Pixabay