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Bottle fillers for schools: how you can reduce plastic bottle waste

How your school can help the environment with bottle filling stations

We’ve all read the news: climate change is a real thing, and governments, businesses and educational establishments alike are beginning to realise the importance of being greener, more environmentally aware, and less wasteful. Schools in particular are coming under increasing pressure to not only include education around environmental issues within school curriculums, but to also ensure that the school itself is run in a more environmentally-friendly, sustainable way.

This can be a daunting prospect for a school already under enormous pressure to perform in other ways, and it might be a challenge to think of easy, immediate things to do that help the environment. One thing that can be done right away at a relatively low cost is to install bottle fillers in your school, college or university. In this article, we’ll talk about plastic waste, why you need a bottle filling station, and the different options available to you.

We need to talk about plastic waste

By this, we mean single-use plastic bottle waste in particular. Let’s highlight the scale of the issue by providing you with some interesting statistics.

According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme- otherwise known as WRAP- the sheer volume of plastic waste generated annually in the UK is now enormous, coming in at an estimated 5 million tonnes. That’s 5 million tonnes of plastic that includes, amongst other things, plastic drinks bottles. WRAP continue to campaign for more awareness about this waste, and research they have done shows that there is currently a huge ‘plastic gap’ in the UK. In other words, despite much of our plastic bottle waste being collected by local councils for recycling, only 58% of those bottles are currently recycled in the UK.

To really hammer the point home, also have the following information on their website:

Families throw away approximately 40kg of plastic per year.
The use of plastic in Western Europe increases by about 4% each year.
Plastic can take anything up to 500 years to fully decompose.

Need more convincing? The Ellen Macarthur foundation’s groundbreaking investigation into plastics also produced some shocking stats:

95% of plastic packaging is lost to the economy after a single use
If plastic leakage is not stopped, it’s predicted that by 2050 the ocean will contain more plastic than fish by weight.

Finally, the Independent reports on how much of this single-use plastic waste is made up of plastic drinks bottles. In the UK, over 35 million bottles are consumed each day. Worse, some 16 million of those don’t even get recycled.

It’s hard to argue with statistics like this, all of which provide a compelling argument: that we need to be doing more to tackle the waste and pollution that results from our heavy use of plastics across the world.

So how can your school reduce single-use plastic waste?

Tackling waste is a difficult, long-term challenge that needs to be approached from a government perspective first and foremost. However, while we all wait for that to happen, there is a simple two-step approach to the problem that UK schools can get on board with quickly and easily. The first part revolves around providing alternatives to single-use plastic bottles. The second part looks at how you can better recycle existing plastic waste.

Let’s start with trying to encourage your pupils and teachers alike to stop using single-use plastic drinks bottles. Reusable water bottles are an extremely affordable and easy route to reducing plastic bottle waste in your school. Commonly made from BPA-free plastic or aluminium, they are affordable, durable and in many cases, a lot more fun for a younger child to carry around than a standard branded drinks bottle. But it’s not just the kids who should have the onus placed upon them. Staff should also be routinely encouraged to bring their own water bottles with them, to help set an example and make the behaviour acceptable across the entire school.

There are dozens of companies out there who offer branded water bottles, if you really want to promote plastic reduction- what better way than to provide pupils and staff with a bottle with your school logo on it?

What are Bottle fillers?

Your pupils and staff are now armed with sustainable, reusable water bottles emblazoned with your school logo. So now what? They need an easy, hygenic way of filling them up, and that’s where bottle filler fixtures come in.

In essence, bottle fillers or bottle filling stations are like drinking fountains, except they are fitted with long, purpose built nozzles that allow people to fill bottles easily, without messy leaks or splashback. There’s built-in drainage for water waste, and a number of options when it comes to materials and style. Recessed, wall-mounted bottle fillers are great for saving space in narrow corridors, and wall-mounted, shrouded fillers protect the vulnerable pipework beneath from damage with a stainless steel casing.

Bottle fillers are usually lever operated or push-button operated, making them foolproof for pupils of all age to use.  

We usually recommend stainless steel water bottle fillers as the most durable, practical choice for  school settings. Stainless steel is easy to clean, long-lasting and fairly vandal resistant. It also ensures the product lasts well despite heavy usage in higher footfall areas, which gives you value for money and reduces the environmental impact of installing the station in the first place.

Finally, bottle fillers are cost-effective, with smaller units coming in under £150, and they are straightforward to install. All of which means you can begin to encourage your students and staff to use reusable bottles sooner rather than later and quickly begin reducing the volume of bottle waste that occurs in your school.

Other benefits of putting bottle filling stations in schools

It’s not all about saving the world, although as a motivation for installing bottle fillers in your educational establishment, this is  a pretty good one. Aside from that, there is a remit to ensure that your pupils remain well hydrated. Studies on child cognition and hydration have suggested that students perform better academically when well-watered, and the Department for Education’s School food in England guidelines put an onus on providing clean, freely accessible drinking water throughout an establishment.

Recycle, recycle, recycle

So your school now encourages the use of reusable bottles, has installed bottle fillers around the property, and is well on the way to cutting back on plastic bottle waste. But what about the bottles that do get brought to school? What about the other plastic waste? Do you know how much waste is actually happening on your premises?

These are all valid questions. Performing a waste audit might be a good way to see how much plastic refuse your school actually produces. The aim of the audit is to try and figure out where on site most of your waste occurs, so that you can locate recycling units in those places and decrease the amount of plastic that is thrown away and headed for landfill.

Encouraging pupils to actually put their waste in the right bins could be trickier, but by making it a classroom activity, or a fundraising activity, you’ll see a more enthusiastic uptake. This school made some much needed cash out of their recycled waste via the Greenredeem School Donations Scheme, so it’s worth checking to see if a similar scheme operates in your area. Schools and the environment are becoming intrinsically linked on many local agendas, and variations of schemes offering cash for recycled goods seem to be spreading across the UK.

Getting your students on board with goal-focussed recycling initiatives means they are more likely to grow up thinking that recycling and reducing waste is a natural state of behaviour, meaning it will have longer term implications for the planet.

If you have any questions about our bottle filling stations, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our friendly sales team on 01275 400456.

27th March 2018

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