60% Would Ditch Single-Use Plastic Water Bottles If Tap Refills Were Freely Available

Nearly three in five (59%) say they would be more likely to use a reusable water bottle if tap water refills were more freely available in places such as shops, airports and parks, a YouGov survey reveals.

The survey, commissioned by BRITA UK and environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, also found that 57% of people believe businesses that serve food and/or drinks should be required to provide free drinking water to the public, regardless of whether they are a customer or not.

The survey found only a quarter of people (25%) know their rights when it comes to asking for a glass of tap water or filling a reusable water bottle in public buildings and businesses, possibly leading them to buy bottled water or other drinks when on the go.

Currently, licensed premises including bars, theatres and restaurants are legally required to provide free drinking water on request in England, Scotland and Wales, although they can charge for the use of a glass.

“Topping-up in a glass or refillable bottle would encourage us to stay healthy while helping to reduce littering in our streets, parks and beaches, which is all good.”

Despite this, 71% of people are uncomfortable asking for free tap water in a glass without buying something else and more than a third (37%) feel awkward asking for it in a reusable bottle even if they are making a purchase.

Keep Britain Tidy (KBT) Chief Executive Allison Ogden-Newton said: “This report demonstrates that the British public want greater access to tap water when out and about. Topping-up in a glass or refillable bottle would encourage us to stay healthy while helping to reduce littering in our streets, parks and beaches, which is all good.”

The survey also revealed that 59% of people would be more likely to carry a reusable water bottle if tap water was freely available or they knew that businesses would willingly refill their bottle.

KBT says litter from single-use plastic bottles are a growing problem in the UK, damaging the marine environment and blighting our streets. The report reveals that 73% of us would like there to be greater availability of free tap water, but that only a third (33%) of us are willing to go the extra mile to find alternatives to plastic bottles.

The survey also found that:

  • Only 7% of us usually drink from water fountains or public taps when not at home, while only one in ten (11%) normally get tap water from cafes or restaurants when on the go
  • 55% worry about the cleanliness of public water taps and fountains
  • Nearly two thirds (64%) of us rarely or never carry a reusable bottle when out during the day
  • 77% of us would view a business less favourably if it refused to give them free tap or filtered water
  • 27% of us view environmental concerns as the main advantage of using a reusable bottle
  • 65% of us don’t buy bottled water if tap water is available.

An accompanying report, compiled by Keep Britain Tidy’s Centre for Social Innovation, found that in some places, including Bristol and London, schemes to encourage the use of reusable bottles were in place and recommends that community water schemes should be made available everywhere.

Other recommendations to support greater uptake of freely available drinking water include:

  • Increase awareness about public rights to drinking water
  • Updating legislation that encourages greater access to free drinking water
  • Encourage the hospitality industry to provide free drinking water to customers and non-customers
  • Work with transport providers to improve access to free drinking water.

At present, Britons use 7.7bn single-use plastic water bottles a year, according to KBT, but only a limited number are recycled. In March, more than 300,000 people took part in Keep Britain Tidy’s Great British Spring Clean, clearing more than half a million bags of litter from streets, parks, beaches and countryside, including many discarded plastic bottles, it says.

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