A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute and that number will jump another 20% by 2021, creating an environmental crisis some campaigners predict will be as serious as climate change[1]. The demand is being driven by an apparently insatiable desire for bottled water and the spread of the urbanised “on the go” culture.

In the UK, we use 7.7 billion single-use plastic water bottles a year[2] and in Oxford we’ve calculated that we use 300 plastic water bottles every 8 minutes! That’s the number of bottles in the sculpture (see photo above) we made for the launch of Refill in Oxford. Research from WRAP suggests that just over half of these made it to recycling, while millions are put into landfill, burnt or leak into the environment and oceans each day[3]. Plastic bottle waste now blights our town, cities and countryside and plastic contamination is now found in everything from tap water to sea salt.

Single-use plastic water (SUP) bottles are commonly made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET). A one-litre PET bottle uses 162g of oil (producing CO2 emissions equivalent to driving a car for 1km) and seven litres of water to produce, and can take over 450 years to biodegrade[4]. And, what's more, the production of bottled water is around 500 times more carbon intensive than tap water. It also has many more stringent quality tests – around half a million a year – than bottled brands. And, it’s considerably cheaper!

Reducing the consumption of single-use plastics through avoidance is therefore a crucial aspect of reducing environmental pollution. We could help solve this problem by setting up Refill points all around Oxford and encouraging people to use them. Let’s make refilling the new normal!


[1] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jun/28/a-million-a-minute-worlds-plastic-bottle-binge-as-dangerous-as-climate-change

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/11/british-embarrassment-over-asking-for-tap-water-in-bars-fuels-plastic-bottle-waste-survey

[3] Recyle Now (WRAP 2017)

[4] Understanding provision, usage and perception of free drinking water to the public in the UK (Keep Britain Tidy and BRITA 2017)