London’s bottled water addiction

Londoners drink more bottled water than anywhere else in the UK. The average Londoner over the age of 18 buys 3.37 plastic water bottles every week – that’s 175 every year per person, and over a billion per year on a city level. Sadly, many of these end up in the River Thames and, ultimately, the ocean.

10% of litter found washed up on the shore of the River Thames is plastic bottles – half of these are water bottles.

On one day last year, 2,500 plastic bottles were collected from the banks of the Thames – water bottles were the most common type found.

Plastic drink bottles were in the top three most common items found on the 2015 international coastal clean up.

Plastic drink bottles were one of the top 10 items found on UK beaches during the 2016 great British beach clean.

Plastic is poisoning the ocean

Once in the ocean, plastic remains there for hundreds – if not thousands – of years, killing marine creatures, spoiling our coastlines, and damaging livelihoods. It places added pressure on ocean ecosystems that are already stressed by the impact of human activity. Globally, eight million tonnes of plastic enters the ocean each year – that’s equivalent to a rubbish truckful every minute. If nothing changes, plastic in the ocean may outweigh fish by as soon as 2050.

Welcome to the refill revolution!

Londoners are taking action and embracing a new refill culture, where using a refillable water bottle is the new norm and where throwaway, single-use bottled water is a thing of the past. Get involved in this revolution today – either by personally pledging to use a refillable water bottle instead of hundreds of wasteful single-use bottles, or by working to create a refill culture in your workplace or community.

Drinking fountain statue in St James’ park ©Jim Linwood_Flickr

London’s refill heritage

London used to be a refill society. The first drinking water fountain was built in 1859 and at its peak was used by up to 7,000 people each day. Due to its popularity, 85 more water fountains were built over the next six years across the city. Many have been maintained.

By comparison, bottled water is a relatively recent phenomenon. It only became mainstream in the late 1970s following a slick marketing campaign, and initially consumers were sceptical about paying money for something they would normally get for free. The consumption of bottled water in the UK has almost doubled over the last 15 years.

Today we are reverting back to our refill heritage. More and more of us are switching to using a refillable water bottle, instead of hundreds of single-use bottles. In fact, according to a recent survey, 65% of us wouldn’t buy bottled water at all if tap water were more freely available.

Taking the revolution city-wide

Creating a truly city-wide refillable drinking water culture is going to require some innovative thinking.

How might we influence and scale up London’s drinking water infrastructure so that it supports refilling?
How might we find and scale new and innovative ways to supply water to Londoners – ways that disrupt the status quo?
How might we tackle some of the negative perceptions that Londoners have about the drinkability and healthiness of tap water?
How might we build new business models that encourage business-level support of a refillable model of supplying drinking water?

London is perfectly positioned to take on these challenges

London is a leading global city, home to some of the best scientists, designers, innovators, businessmen and women, and entrepreneurs. And we’re working with them on some of these challenges.