We are at the forefront of a new national scheme to cut plastic waste by making free drinking water readily available in public places. As suppliers of clean, clear drinking water that tastes good we want to make it easier than ever for everyone to opt for the refillable, rather than the disposable, bottle.

We are one of just three water companies already running local schemes with the Refill campaign – working with businesses in Durham to provide facilities for members of the public to top up their water bottles for free.

Soon all water companies in England will follow our lead, as a partnership between the water industry and the campaign will see a massive expansion of the scheme.

It is estimated the scheme will cut plastic bottle use by tens of millions each year as well as substantially increasing the availability of high quality drinking water. This will create a network of refill stations in every major city and town by 2021.

Our Chief Executive, Heidi Mottram, said: “The BBC's latest series, Blue Planet II, has brought home to everyone the devastating impact that plastic waste has on our environment, oceans and marine life, and the appetite from the public to reduce their plastic waste has grown significantly.

“Business has a responsibility to play a critical role in helping people to tackle this problem at the grass roots, reducing the use of plastics at source wherever possible. As an ethical company, Northumbrian Water is committed to leading the charge on this initiative and we're trying to make it as easy as possible for people to stay hydrated on the move, without adding to the disposable plastics problem.”

We've signed up our main office in Pity Me as a Refill station and are asking other businesses to sign up too. We are also raising awareness of the Refill campaign with our customers, encouraging everyone to refill sports bottles and reject single-use alternatives.

The first business to join the national drinking water scheme is Whitbread plc, which has pledged to offer free drinking water for customers and passers-by in each of its 3,000 Costa Coffee and Premier Inn locations from March 2018.

High street retailers, coffee shops, businesses and local authorities will join the scheme over the next two years.

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. So far, recycling does not appear to be adequately dealing with the problem, as 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.

How will we roll out the scheme?

We’ll work with Refill to develop a local action plan by September 2018, setting out steps we will take – working with local partners – to drive up access to drinking water locally. This will include the number of refill stations to be available. Plans will cover specific initiatives tailored to local circumstances, which may also include projects like new outdoor drinking fountains and reusable bottles.

The next stage will be to put in place a network of community refill points. A national app will direct the public to their nearest refill station and signs in shop windows will indicate where top-up points are available.

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