Scotland’s expanding network of new public water taps has saved the equivalent of one million single-use plastic bottles through people quenching their thirst by refilling.
In a major boost to the country’s efforts to reduce litter including discarded plastic, members of the public have tapped into Scotland’s water supply when out and about to help the planet, stay hydrated and save money.
There are now 60 distinctive, bright blue taps installed throughout the country, from Shetland to the Scottish Borders, in parks, town and city centres, beachfronts, woodlands and visitor hotspots.
The first was switched on outside the Scottish Parliament in 2018 and more will be installed over the coming 18 months.
Montrose was the first Angus community to have a tap installed, in 2019, and Arbroath became the second with a tap installed in the town earlier this year.
The taps provide free public mains supply water – and digitally log how much water is used as people fill up at the touch of a button.
The tap roll-out is part of the Your Water Your Life campaign which celebrates the qualities of Scotland’s water – and encourage people to think about protecting the environment and their own health at the same time.
Douglas Millican, Scottish Water chief executive, said: “It’s easy to enjoy our nation’s tap water in the home – but when people are out and about, we want them to be able to stay refreshed.
"It’s great that so many people have used the taps, saving the equivalent of one million single-use plastic bottles.
"Thank you to everyone who fills up from a public water tap with a refillable bottle.”
The programme followed research by the water authority which revealed that 78% of people think there should be greater availability of free tap water when out and about, and that one of the barriers to people topping up their reusable bottle was lack of access to taps.
Each unit is plumbed into the public water supply and fitted with technology which digitally tracks water usage at each tap, transmitting the data via cloud technology to the specialists managing Scotland’s water networks.
Knowing how much water has been used by customers at these taps means Scottish Water can extract the equivalent number of plastic bottles that would have been purchased to deliver the same amount of water supplied by these taps.
As of October 2019, more than 40,000 litres of water have been drunk from Scottish Water’s network of Top Up Taps - that's the equivalent of 120,000 standard 330ml single-use plastic bottles.
Lorna Neilson, who has led the Scottish Water team behind the taps, said that communities have been enthusiastic to be included in the project.
She sai: “The connection between communities and their taps – and the recognition of doing something positive for themselves and the environment - has been amazing.
"There’s a real team effort involved from planning through to switch-on and we’ve often worked with community groups to identify locations.
"Scotland should be very proud to have achieved this sustainability
Welcoming the announcement Lorna Slater, Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, said that although more has to be done to tackle the use of single-use plastic, the introduction of the tap network
She said: “The proliferation of single-use plastic is severely impacting our environment and contributing to climate change.
"This initiative from Scottish Water has a direct impact on the reduction of plastic waste whilst helping people stay hydrated and healthy.
“There’s more to be done, hence we are changing the law to ensure further market restrictions on single-use plastics are introduced helping tackle our throwaway culture and the shift towards a circular economy in Scotland.”
The taps and the thinking behind them have won support from a number of community groups, organisations and businesses which are keen to enhance Scotland’s reputation for sustainability.
Marion Montgomery is the founder of Paws on Plastic, an Aberdeenshire-based group which encourages dog walkers to pick up at least two pieces of plastic litter on every walk
She set up the organisation in 2018 after she came across a programme run by the British Council which was encouraging people to start a social action in their own local areas based on reducing plastic pollution.
Since then, its efforts have attracted support from many other environmental organisations including Keep Scotland Beautiful, Keep Britain Tidy and Surfers against Sewage, which have all helped to promote its activities.
She said: “It’s sad that our natural environment is plagued with plastic litter. Dog walkers are acutely aware of the problem as they are out and about at least once a day.
"Scottish Water’s initiative to reduce single-use plastic use in the first place is excellent - and maybe one day will mean our countryside is as clean and green as it should be.”
The full list of Scottish Water’s Top Up Taps and their locations can be found at www.yourwateryourlife.co.uk/find-your-