With summer here and many Kiwis resolving to take greater care of the planet and themselves in 2020, now’s the time to join ‘the refillution’.
Wai Auckland and Wellington-based RefillNZ are calling on Auckland cafes, bars, restaurants, retailers and community facilities to become official RefillNZ Stations; places customers and passers-by can refill their reusable water bottles on-the-go for free, no questions asked.
Wai Auckland project manager and registered nutritionist, Amanda Brien, says the goal is to have 1000 stations registered by mid-2021.
"We’re lucky in Auckland to have clean, top quality tap water at our finger tips," Ms Brien says. "Rather than buying water or sugary drinks in plastic bottles, we should be carrying our reusable bottles with us and making the most of it! It’s a simple concept, but one that saves money, the planet and our health - it’s a no-brainer."
Ms Brien says it’s free to become a RefillNZ Station, and all you need is the will and the water.
"Anywhere that’s keen and has an accessible water fountain, tap, water cooler or jug already has all they need to get on board."
New Zealanders each use an average of 168 plastic bottles annually, but only a third of them are recycled, leaving around 526 million bottles that are thrown away - often ending up in landfill and the sea.
To date, more than 130 Auckland sites have signed up as RefillNZ Stations, including cafes, dentists, pharmacies, Eden Park, an RSA and visitor attractions like Auckland Zoo and SEAL Life Kelly Tarlton’s.
Auckland Council, a Wai Auckland partner, has registered more than 50 of its facilities, including pools, leisure centres and selected libraries and community centres.
The Council’s General Manager Waste Solutions, Parul Sood, says backing RefillNZ will help Aucklanders cut down on single-use plastic bottles and support Auckland’s goal of achieving zero waste to landfill by 2040.
"It’s easy to forget that bottled water didn’t even exist in New Zealand until the late 1990s. We’re showing how easy it can be to return to what we once did - carrying a reusable bottle and filling up from the tap, on the go."
Research commissioned by Wai Auckland last year also found that 69 percent of us drink sugary drinks daily or weekly, with 41 percent of people choosing fizzy as their ‘go-to’ cold drink when out and about.
Amanda Brien says that figure rises to 52 percent among 30-44-year-olds and an alarming 63 percent for children. "Given that one in three Auckland adults and one in seven Auckland children are obese and tooth decay is the leading cause of avoidable hospitalisation for our children, we need to make it easier to opt for tap water rather than sugary drinks, wherever you are," says Ms Brien.
And, with more than 6000 glasses of tap water costing the same as just one litre of bottled water (Kiwis spend around $700 million on bottled drinks annually), the concept also adds up financially.
"It’s free for the consumer and any cost to business is minimal," Amanda Brien says. "In fact, it can potentially benefit them financially by increasing foot traffic, helping build a sense of community and tangibly demonstrating to customers their commitment to sustainability and health.
"Overseas, RefillUK has been going since 2015 and has more than 20,000 Refill Stations. Their experience has been that while people are topping up their bottles, they usually buy something else as well."
Businesses keen to become RefillNZ Stations should complete the form on the RefillNZ website, refillnz.org.nz. They’ll receive stickers and posters to help the public identify them, be promoted via RefillNZ’s social media channels and be added to the ‘Where to Refill’ map on the website and the RefillNZ app (Apple only). It’s free to register in Auckland.
In October, RefillNZ won the Community Environmental Initiative category of the Keep New Zealand Beautiful Awards. It was also a finalist in the Sustainable Business Network Awards 2019.
There are currently more than 1000 RefillNZ Stations nationwide.