Supermarkets are being urged to introduce water dispensers and refill stations for soft drinks into their stores to help tackle plastic pollution.
Research from the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and Greenpeace found that sales of plastic water bottles from six leading supermarkets which provided year-on-year figures increased 8.2% last year, despite growing public awareness about the problems associated with single-use plastics.
In total, eight of the ten leading UK supermarkets sold over 1bn plastic water bottles in 2018, with Asda and Sainsbury’s failing to share their data.
Campaigners are now calling for retailers to drastically cut plastic water bottle sales and install water dispensers in stores. They also want retailers to force brands to offer soft drinks from refill stations so customers can refill their own bottles and help themselves.
Customers at Tesco, Aldi and Lidl do not have access to water dispensers, according to the campaign groups, who add that where other supermarkets offer taps they are limited to cafes or are only available in new stores.
Refill stations could replicate those on offer in food outlets like Nando’s or Subway, they argue, or be in the form of soft drinks hoses, as are common in pubs.
“There’s untapped potential for a refill revolution in the drinks market,” said Juliet Phillips, ocean campaigner for EIA. “We urge supermarkets to work with brands to make these options available and accessible to customers across the country.”
EIA and Greenpeace are calling for reduction and reuse strategies to be complemented by the introduction of an all-inclusive deposit return scheme which covers cans and bottles of all sizes and materials.