Blog: World Refill Day – Why #GivingUpLovingPop is good for our health and the environment

by Beth Bradshaw | 16 June, 2021 6:00 am

This World Refill Day (16th June), Project Support Officer Chloé Higham-Smith discusses the importance of refilling for our health as well the environment and reflects upon the impact Covid-19 has had on the refill revolution.

Good for our health

We all know that keeping hydrated is important for our health, yet many of us are not drinking enough water [1]. 70% of our bodies are made up of water, therefore it is essential we drink enough to avoid dehydration and keep our bodies functioning properly. Even mild dehydration can result in headaches, tiredness, lack of concentration, dizziness and prolonged dehydration can affect kidney function [2]. Typically, the average adult should be consuming 1.5-2 litres of fluid per day, the equivalent of 6-8 glasses [3].

When out and about, it can be very easy to become dehydrated. Rather than waiting to get home or buying a bottle of water – or worse, a sugary drink that is usually cheaper than bottled water [4] – at a convenience store or supermarket, carrying a reusable water bottle provides the opportunity to stay hydrated on the go. It also encourages us to drink more water, saves us money and prevents plastic bottles ending up in landfill, or our rivers and oceans. As part of our #GiveUpLovingPop campaign [5] many of the local campaigns we have delivered include GULP branded refillable water bottles – which always go down well with children and young people, and makes it just that bit easier to Refill and stay hydrated the healthy way.

But what happens when you have gulped down your fresh drinking water from your reusable water bottle? An empty bottle is no good to anyone – but luckily enough, more and more public spaces, shops and supermarkets now offer free tap water – apps such as Refill[1] show you your nearest Refill Stations and water fountains, making accessing tap water more convenient when out and about. Greater access to drinking water may also help to reduce consumption of sugary drinks, which could also have a positive impact on obesity levels and oral health [5]. Research suggests that individuals do not compensate for calories in sugary drinks by eating less food [6] and dehydration, often mistaken for hunger, is one of the main causes of overeating [7] so always refilling a water bottle could result in overall reduced calorie consumption. Water is also sugar-free, making it the best source of fluid for our oral health as sugary drinks can affect our teeth if consumed in large quantities [3]. 1 in 4 five-year olds experience tooth loss and decay as a result of consuming sugary drinks [5].

 

Good for the environment

As well as the benefits to our health, using a refillable water bottle is one thing we can all do to reduce plastic pollution and environmental damage. Research commissioned by City to Sea found that 80% of people surveyed now use a reusable bottle due to concerns about the impact of plastic pollution on the planet [8], yet 700,000 plastic bottles are still being littered every day, with soft drink bottles the third most prevalent type of litter [9]. Each year in the UK, 7.7 billion plastic bottles are used, making up 26% of total plastic packaging [10]. Despite companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo claiming we can recycle our way out of the plastic crisis, only 2% of the plastic ever gets recycled and this unfounded promise allows top brands to justify wrapping their products in plastic packaging [11]. In fact, last year, Coca-Cola was named the world’s worst plastic polluter for the third year in a row, producing around 41,000 tonnes of plastic packaging every year in the UK [12].

Through our Give Up Loving Pop campaign, we have been developing a new Key Stage 3 resource to accompany our existing school-based resources – which aims to make the case for reducing consumption of sugar sweetened drinks not only to benefit our teeth and overall health, but planet earth too. Bringing together two important public health agendas, and making use of the youth-led movement that champions challenging plastic pollution and climate change. When all is said and done, is there really anything more important than our health and the planet we call home? We are currently testing this out with secondary schools and hope to publish it soon, so keep your eyes peeled!

 

Covid-19 and reusables

It would be unusual to get through a blog without mentioning the global pandemic that has changed life as we know it – and the Refill revolution is no exception. Pre Covid-19 saw a surge in the use of reusable bottles amid concerns for the environment, with more and more Refill stations being installed in popular public areas including train stations. There was a huge amount of momentum building, and behaviour change alongside it. Sadly, the pandemic brought about a massive increase in disposable packaging which has had a negative impact on the environment. Due to concerns that reusables could help spread the virus and to limit contact, retailers stopped accepting refillable bottles and coffee cups and some Refill stations were even taped up to prevent the public from using them.

However, in June 2020, over 125 health experts signed a statement assuring consumers that reusables are safe to use during Covid-19, despite the plastic industry taking advantage of the pandemic to promote single-use plastics and scare consumers away from reusable bottles and coffee cups [13].Greenpeace detailed how the plastic industry is exploiting people’s fears around Covid-19 [14] using older industry-funded studies claiming that reusables are somehow more dangerous than single-use plastic, despite new research from the National Institutes of Health showing that the virus can live on plastic surfaces longer than others [15].

 

Conclusions: It is time to Refill!

As we emerge into the recovery phase of the pandemic, it is time to re-embrace our reusable water bottles once again. The benefits are clear – choosing fresh tap water instead of other sugar sweetened drinks can help keep our teeth and body healthy, as well as our planet. So – it is time to #GiveUpLovingPop and get #ReFilling!

 


References

[1] Inews (2018) Half of British adults have no idea how to stay properly hydrated [online] Available at:  https://inews.co.uk/inews-lifestyle/british-adults-hydrated-185893[2]

[2] The Association of UK Dieticians (2020) Fluid (water and drinks) [online] Available at:  https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/fluid-water-drinks.html[3]

[3] NHS (2021) Water, drinks and your health [online] Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/water-drinks-nutrition/[4]

[4] Daily Mail (2016) Supermarket Cola cheaper than bottled water [online] Available at: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3392531/How-supermarket-cola-cheaper-buying-bottled-water-serving-contains-child-s-entire-daily-sugar-allowance-cost-little-5p.html[5]

[5] Give Up Loving Pop (GULP) (2021) [online] Available at: http://www.giveuplovingpop.org.uk/about/[6]

[6] James, J., Thomas, P., Cavan, D., & Kerr, D. (2004). Preventing childhood obesity by reducing consumption of carbonated drinks: cluster randomised controlled trial. Bmj328(7450), 1237.

[7] LiquidIV (2020) Dehydration Hunger: How thirst can lead to overeating [online] Available at: https://www.liquid-iv.com/news/dehydration-hunger-how-thirst-can-lead-to-overeating[7]

[8] Water UK (2018) National Refill Day https://www.water.org.uk/news-item/national-refill-day/[8]

[9] Keep Britain Tidy (2021) The need for a deposit return scheme ad extended producer responsibility [online] Available at: https://www.keepbritaintidy.org/news/need-deposit-return-scheme-and-extended-producer-responsibility[9]

[10] Oneless (2020) https://www.onelessbottle.org[10]

[11] Greenpeace (2020) Plastic is a climate, health and social justice issue [online] Available at: https://www.greenpeace.org/international/story/47146/plastic-is-a-climate-health-and-social-justice-issue/[11]

[12] Break free from plastic (2020) Branded [online] Available at:  https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/BFFP-2020-Brand-Audit-Report.pdf[12]

[13] Green Peace (2020) 125 health experts defend safety of reusables during pandemic [online] Available at: https://www.greenpeace.org/international/press-release/43730/reusables-safety-covid-19-health-experts-statement/[13]

[14] Green Peace (2020) New research shows the plastic industry is exploiting Covid-19 to attack reusables [online] Available at: https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/news/new-research-shows-the-plastic-industry-is-exploiting-covid-19-to-attack-reusable-bags/[14]

[15] Van Doremalen, N., Bushmaker, T., Morris, D. H., Holbrook, M. G., Gamble, A., Williamson, B. N., … & Munster, V. J. (2020). Aerosol and surface stability of SARS-CoV-2 as compared with SARS-CoV-1. New England journal of medicine382(16), 1564-1567.

Links:
  1. Refill: https://www.refill.org.uk/
  2. https://inews.co.uk/inews-lifestyle/british-adults-hydrated-185893: https://inews.co.uk/inews-lifestyle/british-adults-hydrated-185893
  3. https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/fluid-water-drinks.html: https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/fluid-water-drinks.html
  4. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/water-drinks-nutrition/: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/water-drinks-nutrition/
  5. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3392531/How-supermarket-cola-cheaper-buying-bottled-water-serving-contains-child-s-entire-daily-sugar-allowance-cost-little-5p.html: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3392531/How-supermarket-cola-cheaper-buying-bottled-water-serving-contains-child-s-entire-daily-sugar-allowance-cost-little-5p.html
  6. http://www.giveuplovingpop.org.uk/about/: http://www.giveuplovingpop.org.uk/about/
  7. https://www.liquid-iv.com/news/dehydration-hunger-how-thirst-can-lead-to-overeating: https://www.liquid-iv.com/news/dehydration-hunger-how-thirst-can-lead-to-overeating
  8. https://www.water.org.uk/news-item/national-refill-day/: https://www.water.org.uk/news-item/national-refill-day/
  9. https://www.keepbritaintidy.org/news/need-deposit-return-scheme-and-extended-producer-responsibility: https://www.keepbritaintidy.org/news/need-deposit-return-scheme-and-extended-producer-responsibility
  10. https://www.onelessbottle.org: https://www.onelessbottle.org
  11. https://www.greenpeace.org/international/story/47146/plastic-is-a-climate-health-and-social-justice-issue/: https://www.greenpeace.org/international/story/47146/plastic-is-a-climate-health-and-social-justice-issue/
  12. https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/BFFP-2020-Brand-Audit-Report.pdf: https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/BFFP-2020-Brand-Audit-Report.pdf
  13. https://www.greenpeace.org/international/press-release/43730/reusables-safety-covid-19-health-experts-statement/: https://www.greenpeace.org/international/press-release/43730/reusables-safety-covid-19-health-experts-statement/
  14. https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/news/new-research-shows-the-plastic-industry-is-exploiting-covid-19-to-attack-reusable-bags/: https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/news/new-research-shows-the-plastic-industry-is-exploiting-covid-19-to-attack-reusable-bags/

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