According to a new poll undertaken by City to Sea and Friends of the Earth to mark World Refill Day (16th June 2021), three out of four people across the UK (74%) would like to see more refill options, for things like dried foods, laundry detergents, and take-away coffees, so they can limit the amount of single-use plastic in their lives. While over half of all people (55%) think supermarkets and big-name brands are not doing enough to address plastic pollution.
Packaging from take-away food and drinks, including items like coffee cups, plastic bottles and take-away containers are consistently the most polluting items on beaches and in rivers around the world. It’s now understood that single-use bags, plastic bottles, food containers and food wrappers are the four most widespread items polluting the seas, making up almost half of the human-made waste and scientists say the pollution must be stopped at source
Research by the Environmental Audit Committee states that consumption of bottled water has doubled over the last 15 years, with over 7 billion plastic water bottles used each year in the UK. In London this equates to more than 175 plastic bottles per person, per year – despite us having some of the highest quality drinking water in the world.
The good news is, the most polluting items are also some of the easiest to replace with reusable alternatives and evidence shows that consumers are more than willing to play their part in reducing plastic waste, but desperately need more support from businesses and the government to make it happen.
Growing awareness about the disastrous environmental impacts of plastics has fueled the rising popularity of reusable and refillable drinks containers, like coffee cups and water bottles, in part thanks to City to Sea’s award-winning Refill campaign and app, which connects people to places they can eat, drink and shop without the pointless packaging. But after a year of lockdowns and altered habits, progress on plastic pollution has stalled – with new polling revealing that 73% of UK adults believe that plastic pollution is just as bad, or worse than it was before the pandemic began.
Now City to Sea and Friends of the Earth are calling on the UK government to listen to the resounding voice of the British public, by putting refill and reuse at the heart of recovery from the pandemic, as part of legally binding targets on plastic pollution.
Although it is up to governments to take the lead on accelerating the tide of change, businesses too must play their part. In the last 12 months, one in three UK adults have had a reusable container refused when buying a product that can be refilled.
Despite initial hesitancy about accepting reusables, like coffee cups, at the height of the pandemic, leading experts now say they are safe to use in hospitality settings providing basic hygiene guidance is followed. City to Sea has produced comprehensive guidance for businesses on how to accept reusable cups, bottles, and take-away containers in a covid safe way. Together with Friends of the Earth, they are calling on businesses to reinstate policies where customers can bring reusables instead of accepting single-use containers.
Campaigner & Presenter of BBC1’s War on Plastic Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall,said:
“We know we have a huge issue with single-use plastic and unfortunately Covid has made it worse, not better. We’re not going to be able to recycle our way out of this one! Instead we urgently need to turn off the tap, actually using less and less plastic in our lives. This means we have to make it easier for people to access refill and reuse options. This is World Refill Day, I’ll be joining thousands of individuals, community groups and NGOs around the world and calling on big brands, businesses and government to do more to tackle plastic pollution and prioritise genuine solutions based on multiple reuse and regular refills.”
London is leading the Refill Revolution
The Refill Campaign in London is supported by the Mayor of London, and since its launch in 2018, City to Sea, the organisation behind Refill, has mapped more than 4,500 Refill Stations on the free the Refill app in London, helping people eat, drink and shop with less plastic. Businesses signed up include high-street chains like Pret, Costa and Starbucks, Wetherspoons and Premier Inn, alongside thousands of independent businesses like cafes and zero-waste shops.
A series of household names will today be adding sites to the free Refill app encouraging customers to refill on the go. These include English Heritage, Caffé Nero, Morrison’s, Bluestone, and Birmingham FA. These organisations are collectively adding over 5,000 Refill Stations to the app. If all of these Refill Stations are used just once a week, they’d save a WHOPPING 260,000 plastic bottles a year.
Re:Store, in Hackney Downs is one of the businesses signed up to lead the fight against single use plastic by offering refills of store cupboard staples such as dry foods, oils and cleaning products. Megan, who runs Re:Store said: “It was sad to see the state of the parks after a sunny day, it was bad before, but when the cafes and restaurants were closed the litter was terrible. I was saddened that people don’t seem to feel the responsibility to look after our natural spaces.”
City to Sea, are now calling on Londoners to take action this World Refill Day, by switching from single-use to reusables and using the Refill app to find out what they can refill near them.
Jo Morley, City to Sea’s Head of Campaigns, said: “It’s been incredible to watch the Refill campaign flourish over the past few years, particularly in London. World Refill Day is something that everyone can get onboard with and has the potential to drastically reduce the amount of unnecessary single-use plastic we use when we’re out and about. People want to help prevent plastic pollution, and Refill puts the power to do that in their hands.”
“This World Refill Day we have businesses like Re:Store stepping up and helping their customers live with less plastic, we now need the government, big business and brands to play their part in implementing what is clearly the will of the people – more refill and reuse.”