The Refill initiative encourages people to refill their water bottles at a network of participating outlets instead of buying new ones. It is run by City to Sea, a UK not-for-profit group that aims to stop plastic waste from being dumped in the ocean. Following the success of a first year of backing the program, Robeco is sponsoring Refill for another year.
There are now more than 25,000 Refill stations in the UK, all listed on a smartphone app that has now been downloaded by 250,000 people. The stations include restaurants, cafes and shops on the high street, where people can refill their bottles using free tap water supplied by the outlet. The campaign was boosted by the first National Refill Day to be held in the UK on 19 June which reached 80 million people on the streets and online.
The success of the initiative means Refill is now on course to prevent 100 million plastic bottles from entering the waste stream by the end of 2019. That is equivalent to almost two million a week, or a quarter of a million per day, since the partnership with Robeco began in October 2018. The campaign gained a further boost when it was promoted by London Mayor Sadiq Khan on social media.
About 95% of all plastic is only used once, and much ends up in the ocean, poisoning marine life and polluting coastlines when it is washed ashore. Eight million tons of plastic waste is dumped at sea every year, now posing a threat to humans, as it is ingested by fish and then enters the food chain.
For plastic waste that isn’t dumped, incinerating it provides a different kind of environmental problem, producing an estimated 400 million tons of CO2 per year. What isn’t dumped or incinerates goes to landfill waste sites, where plastic can take thousands of years to break down.
Then there is the wasteful production issue in that it takes more than eight litres of water to produce a single container of bottled ‘spring’ water, making it an incredibly inefficient use of resources – and that’s before the costs of transporting it to places where it can be sold.
Cutting plastic waste – particularly from single-use bottles or other consumer goods – is a major engagement theme for Robeco’s Active Ownership team in 2019. The engagement focuses on food and beverage producers, along with the plastics manufacturers themselves.
“Working with City to Sea for the past year has enabled Robeco to bring its authentic sustainability credentials to life in a real and tangible way,” says Peter Walsh, Head of Robeco UK.
“As a leader in sustainable investing, we are committed to continuing to advance the adoption of environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing across the industry. We’ve been leading the way with investing in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), active ownership and ESG integration. Together we can have a real world impact on both wealth and wellbeing.”