Businesses in Wales are being urged to offer members of the public free tap water refills so that they don’t have to rely on plastic bottled water while they’re out and about.

As a result of the pandemic, many Welsh cafes and retailers stopped accepting reusable drinks containers and increased the use of single-use plastic, which is a major cause of global pollution.

Environmental organisation City to Sea says it’s vital that we cut single-use plastic as retail and leisure businesses continue to reopen post-lockdown.

The not-for-profit body is calling for businesses to sign up to an app which helps people identify on a map the nearest place where they can get their drinks containers refilled with free tap water.

Jo Morley, head of campaigns at City to Sea, said: “The pandemic unfortunately led to a huge increase in single-use plastic, but as we start to go back to normality, we need to ensure that we don’t see a repeat of the scenes of last summer where our beaches, parks and beauty spots were covered in pointless packaging.

“Refill provides a simple way for businesses and consumers to take action to turn the tide on plastic pollution, as we prepare for the first ever World Refill Day on June 16.”

The Refill app features nearly 2,000 businesses providing free tap water refills in every corner of Wales, including museums, bars, galleries and supermarkets, as well as smaller businesses such as local cafes and restaurants.

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Cobbles Kitchen in Ogmore near Bridgend has recently signed up to offer free water refills.

Founder Chloe Francis Oakley said that doing so is part of the restaurant’s plan to bring sustainability to the forefront of the business: “Being based so close to the sea, we are super conscious of plastic waste and the devastating effect it can have on the environment.

“We have always allowed our customers to refill their water bottles with us but when we heard about the Refill app we were really keen to join the scheme, get a window sticker and make it ‘official’ ready for our full reopening.

“We hope it will remove any barriers for people who might feel uncomfortable about asking for a tap water refill.”

A total of 5.5 billion plastic bottles escape household recycling collection every year. They are either littered, landfilled or incinerated, which creates toxic fumes in the process, since plastic is manufactured from petroleum.

Offering refills is an easy way to help reduce this figure, and more than 120 health experts from 18 countries recently signed a statement recently assuring retailers and consumers that reusables are safe during the pandemic.

In response to the Refill campaign, Keep Wales Tidy chief executive Lesley Jones said: “We all have a part to play in eradicating litter and waste which can cause so much damage to our communities and to our natural environment.

“That’s why we launched Caru Cymru, an inclusive movement which aims to inspire the people of Wales to take action and do the right thing for the environment. This includes carrying a reusable bottle and filling up on the go.”

“We look forward to working with Refill Wales to encourage more businesses and individuals to get involved.”

The National is running its first Environmental Awards to celebrate the best green practices and climate-action projects across Wales.

The awards will shine a spotlight on the individuals, companies and organisations doing outstanding work to protect the environment and tackle climate change.

For more information on the criteria, and how to nominate, here's the link.

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