27th September 2018

South West Water champions ReFill revolution to reduce litter from single-use plastic bottles

South West Water is behind a national campaign by water companies to make tap water more freely available, helping to reduce litter from single-use plastic bottles and keeping people healthy and hydrated when out and about.

To mark the launch of National ReFill Day today (27 September), South West Water is supplying 3,000 stainless steel refillable bottles, free of charge, to Keep Britain Tidy to distribute to community groups in Devon and Cornwall.  The ReFill bottles can then be sold by communities to plough the proceeds back into good causes in their areas.

As a co-founder of the ReFill revolution, South West Water is also talking to councils in the region to explore how the campaign can be expanded further across the South West, following its UK launch in Bude, Cornwall in 2014.

Since the ‘Blue Planet’ TV programme, which significantly raised public awareness about plastic pollution, South West Water has installed a number of new water connection points in public places, including on Polzeath beach in Cornwall, in partnership with the Polzeath Marine Conservation Group.  It is believed to be the first beach ReFill point in the UK.

And more than 1,100 locations, such as cafes, hotels, restaurants and shops, are now registered with ReFill in Devon and Cornwall, allowing the public to top-up their water bottles for free – more than double the total last year.  People can use an app on their phone to find out where the nearest ReFill point is, or look out for special signs in shop windows.

Participating places in the region include St Ives, Truro, Newquay, Penzance, St Agnes, Exeter, Plymouth, Kingsbridge, Totnes and Torquay.  The sites are part of a growing network of participating premises and businesses across the UK, co-ordinated by trade body Water UK, which aims to offer ReFill in every major town and city in the UK by 2021.  In January Whitbread plc signed up and today John Lewis and Morrisons have confirmed their involvement.  It’s estimated that the scheme will cut plastic bottle use by hundreds of millions each year, as well as substantially increasing the availability of high quality drinking water.

Bude resident Deb Rosser, who founded ReFill, with support from BeachCare, a partnership between South West Water and Keep Britain Tidy, said: “It is absolutely fantastic to see water companies and big businesses across the country get behind this idea. It’s so simple, but it has been extremely effective in reducing plastic use and encouraging everyone to do their bit for the environment.”

Alan Hyde, Head of Community Relations for South West Water, added:  “We’re proud of the pioneering role played by the South West and pleased that ReFill is taking off across the UK.  The campaign helps to protect the environment, provides a good value, sustainable solution to healthy living, and supports communities.”

Councillor Andrea Davis, Devon County Council’s Cabinet Member for Infrastructure and Waste, said: “It’s win-win for everyone. It’s good for the businesses and charities that open their doors to thirsty passers-by, good for the environment and good for people’s health to hydrate with water rather than sugary drinks. I encourage businesses to give it a go and it’s easy to opt in.

“We’ve supported ReFill Devon for some time and I’m delighted by how it’s been embraced.  Devon is one of the leaders on this and I support any efforts to extend it to other parts of the country.”

Neil Hembrow from Keep Britain Tidy said: “Single-use plastic bottles are expensive to produce, use up valuable natural resources to make and transport, and create mountains of waste once they’ve been used and discarded.

“It’s estimated that only around half of the 38.5 million plastic bottles used in the UK every day are recycled, with around 16 million ending up in landfill, being burnt, or entering the environment and waterways. The South West is leading the way in tackling this important issue.”

Notes to editors

Find out more at www.refill.org.uk and www.recycledevon.org/RefillDevon

Since the UK launch of ReFill, in Cornwall, the campaign has achieved the following in Devon and Cornwall:

  • more than 1,100 ReFill sites have been registered on the ReFill app, with many more sites unregistered
  • an estimated 5 million single-use plastic bottles have been saved
  • up to £20,000 has been raised for good causes in Devon and Cornwall communities from the sale of at least 6,000 ReFill bottles

Since 2010, the BeachCare project has completed 1,150 beach cleans and removed 165 tonnes of rubbish, mainly plastics, from beaches across the South West: www.facebook.com/beachcare 

For further information please contact:

South West Water

www.southwestwater.co.uk/contactus