Water bottle refill project makes a splash as it rolls out across the country
- Credit: MATTHEW POWER PHOTOGRAPHY
People will be able to refill water bottles for free at shops, cafes, businesses and water fountains across England as part of a scheme tested in Norfolk.
The Refill project aims to prevent the use of tens of millions of disposable plastic water bottles a year, as part of efforts to curb plastic waste on land and in the seas.
The region's water supplier Anglian Water has been an early partner in the project and launched trials in Norwich and Hunstanton in October last year.
Members of the public are able to use an app on their phone to find the nearest refill point or look out for a sign in shop windows.
There are already more than 60 points in Norwich, 20 in Hunstanton as well as in Cromer and Downham Market.
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The plans will see a network of high street retailers, coffee shops, businesses and local authorities offering free refill stations in every major city and town in England by 2021, industry body Water UK said.
Costa Coffee-owner Whitbread is the first company to sign up and has pledged to provide free drinking water for customers and passers-by in its 3,000 Costa and Premier Inn sites from March.
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The programme, which comes amid heightened public concern over plastic pollution in the world's oceans and political pledges to tackle plastic waste, draws on the success of the Refill campaign. Under the plans for a nationwide scheme, water companies will work with Refill to develop local action plans with partners, with the network and national app in place by 2021.
Some water companies are also looking at installing new public drinking fountains and restoring some historical ones which have fallen into disuse.
Anglian Water's Emma Staples said: 'It's vital we address the plastic problem blighting our planet, and reduce plastics directly at their source. And we are lucky to have some of the best quality drinking water in the world, which is good value too, so we want it to be easy for people to access it on-the-go. The average household bill for water is just £1.15 a day for everything you might need – washing, bathing and drinking, and all sewerage charges – that's comparable to the price of one single large bottle of shop-bought water or a take away coffee. Plus after reusing your plastic bottle a couple of times, it effectively becomes carbon neutral.'