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Britons Fuel Shameful UK Pollution Problem As They Admit To Using 7.7 Billion Plastic Bottles Of Water A Year

15th June 2016

One third of people in the UK (32%) buy bottled water but don’t believe they contribute to pollution because they recycle

Future generations are following this adult trend, nearly two fifths (37%) of children mainly drink bottled rather than tap water in some parts of the country

The MCS Plastic Challenge is asking people to stop using single use plastic water bottles in June

UK adults will use nearly 7.7 billion single use plastic water bottles this year, adding to the rising tide of plastic pollution, according to new OnePoll research on behalf of water filter experts BRITA. 

Despite having very good quality tap water available in every home in the UK, nearly a third of people (30%) admit to using bottled water at home.

BRITA has partnered with the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) to highlight the damaging effects of using single use plastic bottles on the environment.  MCS and BRITA are calling for the British public to give up using single use plastic products during the month of June, as part of the Plastic Challenge campaign.

To highlight the issue and the MCS Plastic Challenge, BRITA has unveiled a specially commissioned sculpture, titled ‘The Wave’, made from recycled single use plastic water bottles. The sculpture, currently on London’s Southbank, was created by eco-artist Wren Miller and inspired by Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai’s famous print, ‘The Great Wave’. 

The new research also highlights a growing trend of bottled water consumption among UK children with, on average, 22% of 4 to 18-year-olds mainly drinking bottled water, rather than tap water, despite it being cheaper and readily available. This figure is much higher in some UK regions. 

Nearly two fifths of children in Northern Ireland (37%) mainly drink bottled water, while this drops to only 12.3% of children in Yorkshire and Humberside. More North West children mainly drink tap water (62%) than in the rest of the UK (see full regional ranking lists below).

Over half of UK adults (54%) say they would consider using more tap water generally to lessen environmental pollution, however a third of people (32%) buy bottled water but believe they aren’t contributing to pollution because they recycle.

Bottled water sales grew by 25% in volume from 2010 – 2015 (Mintel bottled water report – March 2016), reflecting a worrying trend in the number of single use plastic water bottles used both at home and on the go.

Beauty and wellbeing entrepreneur and BRITA sustainability ambassador Liz Earle said, “The growing use of single-use plastic water bottles among current and future generations, and its contribution to increased plastic pollution in the UK, is a major concern.  

“Communicating issues about wellbeing is something I do every day and I believe that protecting the environment is fundamental to the wellbeing of all of us in the UK.”

Rebecca Widdowson, Director of Marketing at BRITA UK said, “We are supporting the MCS Plastic Challenge, which encourages people to alter their perceptions about the effects of single use plastic water bottles and asks them to consider more sustainable alternatives. 

“Drinking tap water instead of bottled water is one simple way to help reduce plastic pollution. We know some people don’t enjoy drinking tap water, but by using a filter to reduce impurities and improve the taste and smell you can make a small change in drinking habits which could have a significant impact on the environment.”  

Dr Sue Kinsey, Senior Pollution Policy Officer at the Marine Conservation Society said, 

“Single use plastic water bottles in the seas and on coasts are a menace to wildlife, particularly as they start to break down. They add to the microplastic load of the oceans and can be eaten by animals at all stages of the food chain.

“It takes 162g of oil and seven litres of water to manufacture a single one litre disposable PET bottle, which amounts to the release of 100g of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), a major greenhouse gas. This means single use plastic bottles significantly contribute to pollution, even if they are subsequently recycled.”

Richard McIlwain, Deputy Chief Executive of Keep Britain Tidy said, “We‘re delighted to support the Plastic Challenge campaign. In national litter surveys undertaken by Keep Britain Tidy, over half of sites have soft drinks and water bottles littered on them. 

“More than 5 billion bottles every year end up littered or in landfill and the vast majority of these bottles are made of plastic which is a valuable resource. We want to see people firstly reduce their dependence on single use plastic bottles and then collect and recycle what’s left.”

The Zoologiocal Society of London’s Head of Marine and Freshwater Conservation, Dr Heather Koldewey is leading the One Less campaign. She said, “We live in ‘London-on-Sea’ and every day the ocean sends oxygen, weather, fresh water and wildlife into the heart of our city through the Thames and every day we send plastic debris back.

The #OneLess campaign, which is calling on Londoners to switch to refillable bottles, and which will be working across all sectors of the city to increase access to free drinking water and phase-out the provision of single use plastic water bottles, supports the Plastic Challenge”.

For more information about the plastic challenge visit 

- Ends -


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