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A network of water fountains

MPs and organisations make joint call for installation of water fountain network across the UK
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Cute and happy little girl getting water from a water fountain

More than 25 policymakers, campaigners, NGOs and business leaders have signed a letter calling on central and local government to install more publicly available water fountains across the UK.

The call follows news that in London there are less 500 council-operated water fountains, meaning there are approximately 19,000 people to each water fountain. This this statistic is even worse outside the capital.

Buying bottled water

The open letter calls on the government to create a new comprehensive network of water fountains and refill stations across the UK.

The letter highlights that while most people (78%) in the UK own a reusable bottle, often they are unable to fill it up on the go and end up buying a plastic bottle of water instead. This is fuelling dependency on polluting single-use plastic bottles.

According to the letter: ‘Britons spend approximately 1.6 billion British pounds per year on bottled water, much of which is imported from abroad. As a result, some 5.5 billion plastic bottles are littered, landfilled or incinerated each year, contributing 233,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions’.

‘We are fortunate in the UK to have some of the safest drinking water in the world, and yet parts of this country are still like a desert when it comes to access to public drinking water.

‘Ocean Bottle research carried out earlier in the year found that three quarters of Britons can go a full day without seeing a water fountain in their area. Most consumers want to do their bit for the environment and avoid single use plastic where possible, yet the current system is not allowing them to do this.

‘Next month, when a new cohort of councillors get elected, we urge them to prioritise this issue and commit to installing thousands more publicly available water fountains across London and the greater UK. People have taps in their homes – it’s time to put them on the streets.’

Co-founder of Ocean Bottle

Support for public drinking water

The letter has been signed by a cohort of parliamentarians including Ben Bradshaw, Jeremy Corbyn, Baroness Bakewell and John McDonnell.

Leading environmentalists and campaigners, including Sian Sutherland, co-founder of A Plastic Planet; Jo Royle, CEO of Common Seas and environmentalist Dominic Dyer have also added their names to the list.

The letter has also been signed by several experts in the circular economy and environment space, including academics Professor Mauvis Gore, Professor J Murray Roberts, Professor Teresa Fernandez and Professor Elizabeth Kirk.

Tackling plastic pollution

Plastic bottles are some of the worst contributors to plastic pollution, being one of the most commonly found items in UK rivers. It is estimated that for every mile of beach in the UK you could find 159 bottles.

The letter reads: ‘As the country faces both a climate and cost-of-living crisis Britons should not be forced to spend money on plastic bottles to stay hydrated.’

It also added: ‘This current systematic and institutional failure can be remedied by local councils if the political will were there. With the help of central government funding, local councils must install a comprehensive network of refill spots across the UK.’

In the absence of comprehensive action from central government, various third-party initiatives have arisen to tackle the issue. Most notably City to Sea has launched a hugely successful refill campaign to making free drinking water available in thousands of cafes, restaurants and public spaces.

‘Increased access to free water on-the-go is still a key solution to tackling the plastic pollution problem, which is why over the past six years our Refill volunteers have grown and mapped a network of over 30,000 Refill Stations in the UK and over 330,000 globally on the free Refill app, showing people where they can top up their bottle for free.
‘However, we know from our research that publicly accessible water fountains are the best way to encourage refilling on the go and would welcome support from the government and local authorities to invest in this infrastructure in communities around the UK.’

Founder of City to Sea

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