If you’re the sort of person who has an empty water bottle and thirst for refreshment, there are a lot of shops in London that offer free water refills.

It’s part of a scheme run by an organisation called, appropriately enough, Refill, which promotes venues that support less waste in packaging. And part of the scheme is to promote tap water refills for people who have an empty bottle to top up.

It’s been calculated that there are now over 4,000 cafes, shops, pubs, etc, across London participating in the free water top-up scheme.

You can either just look for a blue sticker in the shop window, or you can download their smartphone app that’ll show you local locations.

It’s a bit of a nuisance as an app, falling into the increasingly common trap of just assuming you’ll know how to use it and what the icons mean without explanation. There’s an icon for a bottle, which seems obvious – to refill a bottle. The drinking fountain icon seems obvious, but you can’t seem to select drinking fountains only, you have to select a bottle refill as well – which is a bit pointless if you’re lacking a bottle at the moment.

The cup symbol might be for coffee, and couldn’t work out what the odd thingymajig below it is for. The basket seems to be for shopping without packaging. Tapping the refill now button doesn’t seem to do anything other than change the text to refill again.

Candidly, I tend to carry a bottle of water with me for sipping as and when needed, but don’t top up once it’s empty, as human biology comes into action and what goes in needs to come back out again, and that can cause all sorts of other problems if you drink too much water without being close to a loo.

But, I did download the app, and will keep it on the phone for those very hot days when I will risk topping up the bottle. And knowing that I am not going to want to buy a bottle from a shop saves me money as much as it reduces plastic waste.

The refill app is here.


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One comment
  1. Tom says:

    I downloaded the form to register a new location, which I think has helped decipher the icons.
    The bottle icon is to toggle on and off whether the location offers water, vs the other products below.
    The fountain tells you it’s a water fountain (as opposed to having to ask staff)
    The coffee cup is for locations that will refill a reusable coffee/hot drink
    The weird pink one is ‘lunchbox refill’. Nope, no idea either.
    The basket is for zero-waste shopping.
    There is also an option for places that offer fizzy water.

    That’s my guess based on the form they ask venues to fill in, at least!

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