Property developer Landsec has launched a new water bottle refill scheme in its shopping centres, partnering up with a host of big-name retailers and food and beverage brands in a bid to drive customers away from single-use plastic bottles.
The corporation has teamed up with 92 companies which operate in its shopping centres, including Lush, Costa and McDonald’s, to offer free tap water refills to shoppers who bring reusable water bottles to stores.
Launched earlier this month, the Refill Me campaign is being trailed in 149 stores at 12 malls including Bluewater, in Kent, Gunwharf Quays, in Portsmouth, and Westgate, in Oxford, with Landsec aiming to roll out the scheme across its entire 17.6 sq ft retail portfolio by 2020.
Shops taking part, including Caffe Nero and Pret-A-Manger, will display stickers to indicate to shoppers that they are a free refill point, in a bid to encourage customers to switch from single-use plastic beverage bottles to reusable alternatives.
Landsec’s sustainability manager, Tom Byrne, said the campaign has seen “unprecedented levels of support from customers and retailers alike” since its launch.
“Single-use plastic is one of the biggest challenges facing our planet,” Byrne said. “Like other refill campaigns, we’re determined to play our part in ensuring that we drive change in the behaviours of shoppers and retailers.”
The move from Landsec comes after the launch of a similar scheme in London, whereby 65 businesses and venues have pledged to offer free tap water refills in a bid to cut plastic pollution across the capital. Similarly, the Welsh Government recently unveiled its plans to become the world’s first “refill nation”, where access to free drinking water in public places is universal.
Fill me in
The Refill Me campaign launch comes after a Landsec survey revealed that attitudes towards refillable bottles could be a significant barrier to reducing the single-use plastic outputs of shopping centres, with 59% of shoppers claiming they would feel uncomfortable asking a retailer to refill their water bottle without first making a purchase.
The research additionally found that while 59% of shoppers do not currently carry a refillable bottle with them, half of all respondents would begin carrying one more often if they knew where they could refill it.
Costa’ head of environment, Oliver Rosevear added: “At Costa, we are committed to reducing our impact on the environment and playing our part to tackle the issue of plastic waste. We are delighted to be joining Landsec’s Refill Me campaign and further promote the use of reusable cups and water bottles within our stores – allowing customers to refill their water bottles for free, with no purchase required.”
UK residents buy more than three plastic bottles every week on average – equating to 175 bottles every year per person – and it is thought around 7.7 billion plastic bottles are bought across the UK annually.
In response to the plastics issue, which has piqued public interest following last year’s Blue Planet 2 series, a string of big-name companies across the retail, hospitality and leisure and food and drink sectors have recently announced plans to phase out single-use plastics in their operations, while other corporations have moved to repurpose recycled plastic for new packaging or products.
But as corporates make fresh single-use plastic commitments at an almost breakneck pace, reuse and refill have been suggested as the “missing piece of the sustainable packaging jigsaw”.