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Welsh businesses urged to join app to help customers reduce single use

Nook restaurant offers natural wine refills

Plastic pollution campaigning organisation, City to Sea has expanded its award-winning Refill app, meaning that people in Wales can now search for waste-free shopping opportunities all over the country.

From today (1st October) customers will be able to use the free app to find out where to refill their coffee cup, water bottle or lunchbox; shop for groceries; and even top up their cleaning products and toiletries packaging-free – making Refill the world’s first dedicated app which helps customers find locations to shop waste-free.

The app will also highlight where discounts might be available to reward customers for reducing their single-use packaging. This means that businesses in Wales who offer reuse or packaging-free options can now use the app as a free marketing platform to drive footfall and increase sales.

You can refill all kinds of things with the new expanded Refill app

Rebecca Burgess, CEO of City to Sea, said: “The expansion of Refill marks a positive and significant step in tackling the mountains of avoidable single-use waste created every day. We know we can stay safe and look after the planet, and at City to Sea we want to make it easier for people to eat, drink and shop without pointless plastic. From a coffee on the commute, to drinking water on the go, and shopping with less packaging, Refill puts the power to reduce plastic at our fingertips. We now need more businesses to truly build back better and make pointless packaging a thing of the past.”

Local businesses urged to get involved

The Refill app already connects users to over 30,000 places with over 1,600 businesses providing free tap water refills in Wales, including Cadwaladers, a family run chain of cafes that originated in Gwynedd, and in all the Welsh universities.

Now Costa, Morrisons, and LUSH have joined thousands of forward-thinking independent businesses, like butchers, bakers and green-grocers; and over a hundred zero-waste and packaging free shops; to highlight their willingness to accept reusables and refills on many different products – not just tap water.

In September, Morrisons rolled-out plastic-free fruit and veg areas in over 300 of their stores, in a bid to help customers buy bagless. Steven Butts, Head of Corporate Services at Morrisons, said: “We know our customers want to reduce the amount of plastic they use.  Being able to reuse and refill containers is a good way to do this. The Refill app is a great way to increase people’s awareness about the increasing number of opportunities to reuse.”

In Wales, thanks to Welsh Government funding there are already more than 1,600 Refill Stations offering drinking water. The Welsh Government has a long-standing aim for a zero waste Wales by 2050 and is consulting on restricting the sale of some single-use plastics from 2021. It is hoped that the new updates to the Refill app could make a big contribution to driving the necessary behaviour change to deliver this, making re-use and refilling the new social norm.

Sophie Rae from Ripple ‘Zero Waste’ shop in Cardiff, said: “Since opening our doors in November 2018, the local community has surpassed every expectation I set. They’ve welcomed a refill mentality with ease. I hope the expansion of the Refill app will bring more awareness and build on the sustainable communities who are thriving in Cardiff.”

City to Sea is now calling for other forward-thinking businesses in the food-to-go or retail sector to join the app. They welcome businesses who already allow customers to bring their own containers, those who offer packaging-free options, and those wanting to trial a refill service for the first time.

Nook, an independent restaurant specialising in seasonal small plates, has joined the Refill app to allow customers to buy their natural wines, packaging free. Owner Phill Lewis said, “Sustainability is at the heart of what we do at Nook; from the ingredients in our dishes, to the suppliers we use. We’ve always offered customers the chance to bring their own bottles and ‘refill’ them with our house wines which are available on draught, so being able to advertise that on the Refill app makes perfect sense.”

Businesses can list their own locations and refill details on the app by signing up for free at: https://refill.org.uk/get-the-refill-app/.

Convenience at a cost

The launch of the expanded Refill campaign in Wales comes at a critical time for our planet and follows a tidal wave of single-use plastic in the wake of the global pandemic. It marks a game-changing moment that paves the way for much needed action on plastic in the hospitality and retail sectors.

Packaging from the food-to-go sector is a huge cause of marine plastic pollution, with take-away packaging consistently in the top 10 most found items on UK beaches. A global report launched in August revealed that food wrappers are now the most found item on beaches around the world overtaking cigarettes for the first time2.

Since March, many cafes and retailers temporarily stopped the use of reusables and increased the use of single-use plastic, despite over one hundred health experts stating reusables are perfectly safe to use – and only 5% of customers feeling that single-use items are safer than reusables. Research conducted in 2019 found that more than half of customers say they are actively trying to buy groceries that are not sold in plastic packaging and 75% are willing to use refill services.

Refill local champion Julia Terlet said, “Refill Cardiff is proud to be part of the Refill Revolution. We’re delighted to see how engaged the local community is, from students to families. Over the past two years, we’ve received support from many businesses, shops and organisations within the city to encourage waste-free behaviours. It is important now that we continue to spread the word!”