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Environment

The Very Good Reason London's Planning More Water Fountains

London’s mayor Sadiq Khan is pushing for a network of drinking fountains to be rolled out across the capital in an effort to reduce plastic waste. 

Khan hopes that by giving Londoners access to public water fountains and bottle refill stations, it will cut down on the vast number of single-use plastic bottles being used by Londoners. 

As well as the environmental impact, the scheme could also have health benefits — previously highlighted by Jamie Oliver — by reducing consumption of sugary drinks. 

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“The mayor wants to see a reduction in the amount of single-use plastic bottles and cups across the capital and has asked City Hall officers to examine the feasibility of a pilot community water refill scheme, or other interventions,” a spokesperson for Khan told the Guardian

“Sadiq supports boroughs in identifying suitable locations for water fountains and bottle-refill stations during the planning process in new or redeveloped public spaces, such as town centres, shopping malls, parks, and squares,” the spokesperson added. 

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A country-wide plan to increase access to drinking fountains is also being considered, revealed by environment minister Michael Gove, as part of the government’s efforts to cut plastic waste.

Khan also wants to encourage businesses to make their tap water available to the public, according to the Guardian , following in the footsteps of a scheme launched two years ago in Bristol. 

His plans could also include trialling a deposit return scheme in London — so consumers would get some money back when they return their bottles to be recycled. 

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Worldwide, a million plastic water bottles are bought every minute, and the annual consumption is expected to rise to half a trillion bottles by 2021. More than half of the plastic bottles bought in 2016 weren’t recycled — with most ending up in landfill or in the ocean instead. 

More than 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the world’s oceans every year and, by 2050, it is predicted that there will be more plastic in the sea than fish. 

That’s a serious problem because plastic in the ocean acts as a magnet for pollutants . Toxins that wash into bodies of water — for example, agricultural pesticides and chemicals from industrial plants — latch onto plastic. And plastic in the water is then eaten by marine animals. 

The blueprint for Khan’s plans is open for consultation until March 2018. 

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The report reads: “Free drinking-water fountains that can refill water bottles, as well as be drunk from, should be provided in appropriate locations in new or redeveloped public realm.” 

Khan’s predecessor Boris Johnson also attempted to increase access to drinking fountains, with a “new era of public fountains” announced in 2008, but the plan never came to fruition.

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