Refill Chippenham

Guest blog post by Rob Gillies

Something I often mention to people when
they first start picking up litter is: “Beware the litter-picker’s curse!” – once
you start noticing litter it’s very hard to stop. And once you really start
seeing it, you very quickly see what sort of things make up ‘litter’. One such
thing is the single-use plastic bottle. Spend any time looking at the ground
when walking around Chippenham and you’ll start to see them everywhere: on
paths, in gutters, stuffed in hedgerows, balanced on walls and impaled on
railings. In the formal Off the Ground litter picks in Chippenham last year, we
picked up nearly 1000 of them from Monkton Park and Donkey Field alone!

There are some staggering
on how many plastic bottles are produced each year. Whilst
improvements are being made in the amount of recycled content used in their
manufacture, all these bottles use up valuable natural resources to produce and
generate carbon emissions in their production and transportation. As well as
litter on the ground they are a major contributor to the growing issue of
marine plastic pollution.  The fact that
the Avon flows right through our town means that at least some of the plastic
bottles discarded in Chippenham inevitably find their way into the river and
out to sea. We have a responsibility not just to our immediate environment but
to the marine environment to which the Avon connects us.  

And the weird thing is that a sizeable
proportion of these bottles contain water. Water that is available for a
fraction of the cost from the tap (or for free if it’s not your tap)!  If only there were places in town where we
knew we could fill up a reusable bottle with lovely Wiltshire water for
free….that would be one less single-use plastic bottle to buy each time we’re
thirsty whilst out and about. That’s where Refill Chippenham comes in.

The Refill campaign was launched a few
years ago in Bristol by Natalie Fee and the organisation she founded, City to
Sea. Please visit their website and
have a look at their other great campaigns. Refill is simple and has really
caught on, not just in Bristol, but around the UK and even overseas. Participating
cafés and coffee shops, pubs and restaurants, take-aways and other businesses
simply put a Refill sticker or poster in their window – alerting customers and
passers-by to the fact that they’re welcome to come in and fill up their own
water bottle with tap water – for free! And of course there’s an app that can be downloaded to your smart phone to find your nearest
Refill Station. Why not take a look at this great
little video to see
how it works.

Having introduced Refill to Chippenham (and
thanks again for The Garden for being our first Refill Station), I’m really
hopeful that people get behind the concept, encourage their favourite cafés and
restaurants and other businesses to sign up to be Refill Stations, and adopt
the habit of taking a re-usable bottle with them when they leave the house.

Clearly, Refill Chippenham won’t solve the
problem of plastic bottle pollution and littering, but it can have an impact. If
a class of 30 kids filled-up just once a week instead of buying water or soda,
then they would stop almost 1,600 bottles from being thrown away or littered
every year. I hope you like the idea, make sure you tell your friends and
neighbours, and if you know someone who wants to sign up to be a Refill Station,
get in touch!

A note from Elaine:

Many thanks to Good Energy for their support, which has allowed us to bring Refill to Chippenham, and to Rob for spearheading this campaign. If you are a local business that can offer a Refill station, please do let us know at

Is there a waste or litter-related bugbear that you would like to work on? Please get in touch to see if Off the Ground can help get you started.

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