Friends of the Earth and City to Sea are today (22 March) marking World Water Day by urging politicians, companies and the public to help reduce plastic pollution caused by the billions of single-use plastic water bottles used in the UK every year.
Friends of the Earth and City to Sea say around 14 billion plastic bottles were estimated to be used in the UK in 2018; billions of these are plastic water bottles – 7.7 billion it was estimated in 2017.
They point to estimations that around 16 million plastic bottles in the UK go un-recycled – which they say means they could end up in the natural environment.
Billions of single-use plastic water bottles are produced in the UK every year – many of which end up littering our environment and clogging up our waterways.
Friends of the Earth and City to Sea are urging politicians, companies and individuals to play their part in reducing the impact of plastic water bottles by introducing refill schemes, increasing water fountains and refill locations, by including all sizes of plastic bottles in a ‘comprehensive Deposit Return Scheme to boost recycling’, and by introducing new laws to cut plastic pollution.
Reuse through Refill
The partnership says that refilling water bottles can ‘play a major part’ in reducing the problem.
Consumers and businesses alike can use City to Sea’s free Refill app – the first of its kind. The ground-breaking app’s geo-located database offers over 30,000 places where people can refill their water bottles when they are out and about in the UK, and it is now expanding to cover countries around the world.
It’s estimated that the Refill campaign has already saved over 100 million plastic bottles entering our waste stream.
City to Sea estimates that if 1 in 10 Brits refilled just once a week around 340 million plastic bottles a year would be saved.
“UK drinking water is of the highest standard, and among the best in the world,” they said.
Increase drinking water fountains and water refill locations
They say local authorities, transport hubs and businesses can help in the expansion of water fountains and water refill facilities to make it easier for people to refill their water bottles when they are out and about.
City to Sea have produced a tool kit that provides a step-by-step guide on how to safely install water fountains.
The inclusion of all sizes of plastic bottles in a comprehensive Deposit Return Scheme to boost recycling
The government is due to shortly consult on a Deposit Return Scheme for England, which is due to begin in 2023.
Friends of the Earth and City to Sea are calling for government to introduce an ‘all in’ scheme that includes all plastic drinks containers of all sizes – as well as glass bottles, aluminium cans and cartons.
A DRS scheme in Scotland is due to begin in July 2022, and will include PET plastic drinks bottles, aluminium and steel cans and glass bottles.
“While the introduction of a DRS scheme is welcome, it is important that that waste reduction measures are not ignored,” they partnership says. “More must be done to cut waste in the first place and boost refill and re-use.”
The government to set new laws to drastically reduce plastic pollution
Friends of the Earth and City to Sea are calling on the government to include legally-binding targets to reduce plastic pollution in its flagship Environment Bill.
They are calling on the government to seize the ‘historic opportunity’ of the Environment Bill to set ‘overarching plastics reduction targets’ that ‘turn the tide’ on plastic pollution.
They say legally-binding plastics reduction targets would reduce the harm that plastic pollution is causing to wildlife, human health and the environment.
Friends of the Earth plastic campaigner Camilla Zerr said: “Billions of single-use plastic water bottles are produced in the UK every year – many of which end up littering our environment and clogging up our waterways.
“But it doesn’t need to be like this, especially as the UK has top quality drinking water available from the tap. By saying no to bottled water and refilling from a tap or water fountain, we can all help stem the tide of plastic pollution – and save money.
Although there are measures in the pipeline that will start to address this, like the long-promised deposit return scheme, we are today urging government, businesses and consumers to step up and do what they can immediately
“Reuse and refill should be part of plans to build back greener after the pandemic. Businesses, councils and the government must do more to ensure people have free and easy access to water.
“The forthcoming Deposit Return Schemes should also lead to fewer bottles blighting our environment – but they must cover all plastic bottles of every size.
“But bottles are just a small part of the plastics crisis. The government must set targets to reduce plastic pollution in the Environment Bill which is expected back in Parliament in May.”
Steve Hynd, City to Sea’s Policy Manager said: “Single-use plastic water bottles now make up over half of all plastic bottle sales in the UK. The plastic pollution that this causes can be seen on our riverbanks and on our beaches for all to see.
“Although there are measures in the pipeline that will start to address this, like the long-promised deposit return scheme, we are today urging government, businesses and consumers to step up and do what they can immediately.
“We urgently need more public water fountains, we need more businesses willing to offer free water refills and we need more consumers to start carrying a water bottle that they can Refill on the go instead of buying single-use bottles. Change is happening, in law and in consumer behaviour, but we need everyone to be pushing for more to happen faster.”