Just OneLess: Tackling Plastic Bottle Use in London
Brittney Francis - #OneLess Communications Manager
At #OneLess, we like to think of our capital as London-on-Sea. We admit that at first glance, London may not be the world’s most obvious coastal city, but the River Thames directly links us to the ocean, and Londoners continuously benefit from the ocean every day - it provides us with our weather, climate and the oxygen for every second breath we take.
Unfortunately, most Londoners haven’t always reciprocated the incredible support that the ocean gives them. Only about half of plastic bottles in the UK are getting recycled, the rest goes to landfill, are incinerated, or end up as litter on our streets, where they can make their way into our waterways and out to the ocean. Furthermore, plastic water bottles are one of the most common items of litter found in the ocean, often taking hundreds of years to break down (into smaller and smaller pieces) and harming marine life in the process.
Despite London’s excellent quality of tap water, the average adult Londoner buys 175 plastic bottles of water every year, and since 2016, in partnership with Thames21, we’ve collected over 69,500 plastic bottles along the shores of the Thames through our bottle monitoring programme. London clearly has a plastic water bottle problem…
That’s why #OneLess is committed to stopping plastic pollution at source, focusing on this pervasive single-use plastic water bottles. By ending the ludicrous reign of plastic bottled water, we want to cultivate a fundamental change in the way Londoners and visitors to our city stay hydrated. London has an opportunity to turn the tide on single-use plastic, fostering a culture where using a refillable water bottle or drinking fountain becomes the social norm.
But we aren’t just another behavioural change campaign. We are also committed to ensuring that the necessary policies, innovations, and sustainable drinking water infrastructure are in place around the city, to ensure that using a reusable bottle is a simple and cheaper alternative to buying bottled water. As mentioned, if the average Londoner does indeed buy 175 plastic water bottles every year, that could amount to £90 a year given the current price of (500ml) bottled water.
The good news is that we can all afford to go #OneLess and we have a growing network of 51 pioneering organisations working to eliminate bottled water in London, including a substantial number of London’s flagship institutions such as Selfridges, ZSL London Zoo, Natural History Museum, King’s College London, Lord’s Cricket Ground, The Crown Estate, and Shaftesbury.
Our network comprises businesses, councils and local authorities, academic institutions, emerging innovators, landmark London events and venues, community groups, and grass-roots campaigns. #OneLess truly is a city-wide revolution and it’s thanks to these pioneers that the movement has grown so rapidly over the past 3 years.
To many Londoners busily traversing across the capital, buying a single-use water bottle may seem like the only option. That’s why we’ve spent the last year focusing on water provision – installing over 20 drinking fountains throughout the city in partnership with the Mayor of London, MIW Water Cooler Experts and a whole host of local councils, land owners and cultural attractions. Together we’ve worked hard to ensure these public drinking fountains offer free, safe and reliable water on-the-go for Londoners and tourists alike.
It’s clear these drinking fountains have been a massive hit with the public. We recently reported that nearly 77,000 litres of water have been dispensed in the last year, the equivalent of over 155,000 single-use 500ml water bottles. And the plans don’t stop there! We were delighted to hear that as a result of this project, the Mayor of London and Thames Water have promised to install 100 more fountains across the capital.
While these fountains are a key solution, it’s also important to know your water rights. You can ask to refill your bottle at any licensed premises in London, including bars, theatres, cafes or restaurants. It is your legal right. Plus you can use the Refill app to find a refill point near you! Whether by using a fountain or requesting a refill at a venue, as an individual, you can make the #OneLess pledge to be free from single-use plastic water bottles - for good.
So what’s next? This year, along with the incredible support from Londoners and our pioneer network, we are launching an exciting campaign targeting the 30 million annual tourists and visitors to London. We’ll be encouraging tourists to drink water the London way - by ditching single-use water bottles in favour of more sustainable alternatives like tap water and refillable bottles. By teaming up with high profile events, venues and tourist hubs across the city, we’ll ensure tourists know they have alternatives to bottled water at every stage of their visit. Stay tuned for more info on where we’ll be popping up this summer and how you can get involved!
Drinking water sustainably makes sense for London, the Thames, the ocean and our planet. Join the #OneLess movement – be a part of the solution to the plastic pollution crisis by ensuring there is one less plastic bottle in our ocean.
The #OneLess campaign has been leading the charge against ocean plastic pollution since 2016, focusing on the pervasive single-use plastic water bottles. We are tackling plastic pollution at source, cultivating a fundamental change in the way Londoners drink water – from plastic water bottles, to refilling. Our vision is to transform London into a place where single-use bottled water is a thing of the past and where plastic waste is drastically reduced for the sake of the ocean.
#OneLess is led by the Zoological Society of London, in partnership with Forum for the Future, The International Programme on the State of the Ocean, and the Thames Estuary Partnership and is working with major London attractions and businesses, as well as the Mayor of London, to find and implement solutions to eradicate plastic bottled water and enable a refill culture across our city. For more information visit www.onelessbottle.org