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More than 35,000 plastic bottles have been pulled from the Thames this year

The war on single-use plastic is seeing more fountains installed in transport stations to help cut down on the number of bottles in rivers and oceans

Water DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

Sir David Attenborough’s Blue Planet series may have shattered the perception of plastic – but last week’s annual Big Bottle Count shows that work done to combat the problem has still only been a drop in the ocean.

London’s largest plastic waste monitoring event, organised by waterway charity Thames21 and the #OneLess campaign, saw more than 100 volunteers remove 3,429 single-use plastic bottles from the River Thames last week.

The total taken out of the water stands at 36,667 bottles in the past year – 55,533 since April 2016 – with the summer heatwave to blame according to organisers.

And Londoners were reaching for more water bottles than fizzy drinks for the first time to keep cool.

“In the wake of the BBC’s Blue Planet, Londoners are engaging with the plastic issue like never before,” said Alice Hall, one of the programme’s coordinators.

“They’re concerned about plastic impacts on the Thames, its wildlife and the wider ocean. And we’re seeing Londoners’ massive clean-up efforts starting to have an impact. But people want the problem tackled at source. We need more refill points and fountains, alongside increased effective recycling.

“Clearly Londoners’ consumption of bottled water increased during the hot weather. This highlights the need for more London fountains, so people can get this basic resource for free, especially with more hot summers likely.”

The London Assembly’s Environment Committee published a report last year into the impact of plastic water bottles in London, calling on Sadiq Khan to install refill points and fountains, drawing on data from the counts.

The London mayor has responded, with fountains installed in North Acton and Victoria stations this month alongside other major stations which received their own earlier this year. Network Rail has also introduced fountains in Cambridge, Birmingham and Manchester stations in 2018.

And the refill revolution will aim to change habits this Thursday with National Refill Day.

The awareness day, run by water fountain locator app Refill, is hoping to stem the tide of the 7.7 billion single-use plastic water bottles used in the UK every year.

Instead, Refill is hoping to divert people to 12,000 stations across the UK, including railway stations, airports and high street chains such as Costa, Starbucks and Wetherspoons, to reuse bottles and ensure less end up in our oceans.

Image: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images

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