Plastic-Free Drinking Water

Cities can help end the trend of buying water in plastic by ensuring citizens have access to free, drinkable water. 

TARGET USERS: Individuals, Businesses, Industry, Government

KEY CONSIDERATIONS: Recent polls suggest that 65% of people would not buy plastic water bottles if tap water refills were freely available.



Every year around the world we create more than 300 million tonnes of plastic, half of which are items used only one time and only a fraction are actually recycled. One of the worst offenders are plastic bottles, with a million of them sold every minute around the world, a figure that’s expected to grow by 20% by 2021.


Cities that provide free drinking water to citizens and tourists notice a significant reduction in plastic waste. This not only reduces pollution, but also saves cities money on waste collection and processing.
Accessible Tap Water
Installing a network of drinking water fountains in cities encourages individuals to use reusable water bottles and eliminates the needless purchase of single-use plastic water bottles. Replacing plastic water bottles with free tap water stations reduces city waste streams and related waste collection and management costs.

Water Analysis and Purification
When citizens can have tap water from their home tested for free, they can gain the confidence needed that tap water is safe to drink and there is no need to buy water in plastic bottles.

In places where it is not possible to provide drinkable tap water, citizens can be encouraged through rebates and public awareness campaigns to install tap filters that control and remove contaminants.

Alternatively, the use of drinking water delivery services can be encouraged. Delivery companies operate worldwide to provide businesses and households with drinking water and reusable containers and taps.


Eau de Paris
In France, 8,7 billion liters of water are bottled and consumed and only half of those bottles are recycled. Considering plastic bottles are one of the primary sources of ocean pollution, the ‘Paris de l’eau zero déchet plastique’ (zero plastic waste water action) launched a new initiative to tackle single-use plastic pollution and make Paris the first city with plastic waste-free water. Visit the Eau de Paris website to learn more.

Drinking Fountain Fund for London
The average Londoner goes through 175 bottles of water each year – that’s over a billion on a city level. Many of these bottles end up in the River Thames, from where they can flow out to the ocean, causing harm to marine creatures and poisoning the food chain. #OneLess, the Mayor of London and MIW Water Cooler Experts teamed up to install 28 drinking fountains across London, making it easier for Londoners to stop using plastic water bottles and protect the ocean from plastic pollution. Now 9 million Londoners and 30 million annual visitors from around the globe have access to free drinking water while they are out and about. See One Less Bottle’s website to learn more. 

Dutch Schools and Parks
In The Netherlands, €2m was allocated in 2019 to fund 1,000 new drinking water fountains on school playgrounds. Schools can register for the subsidy, which covers 75% of the cost. In addition, the Amsterdam City Council is doubling the number of water fountains in parks and public places to 500 as part of the city’s campaign to promote plastic-free drinking water.

City of Aalborg, Denmark Bottled Water Ban
In September 2020, the municipality of Aalborg chose to phase out bottled water, allowing municipal employees to use only tap water. The municipality estimates that the initiative will save the environment around DKK 250,000 worth of plastic
bottles each year.

Source: Seas at

“Plastop” for Plastic Bottle-free Schools, Italy
The “Plastop” project by the University of Bologna community aims to limit the use of disposable plastic, specifically plastic bottles. The university started the project in 2018 by implementing various strategies including:

  • The production of reusable metal water bottles that were distributed free of charge to students and administrative and teaching staff
  • The installation of natural and sparkling water dispensers at a controlled price
  • Infographics that convey sustainability messages through stickers to be placed in strategic locations in schools and universities.

In Rome, the Roma Tre University distributed 30,000 steel water bottles for free, with the initiative “The message is the bottle”. Moreover, the regional council of Lazio
has allocated EUR 500,000 to finance other initiatives aimed at combatting the use of single-use plastic. A call for tenders will be published to support the purchase of eco-compactors to recover and recycle materials, and the launch of projects for the progressive elimination of containers and other disposable plastic products in all
school locations.

The municipality of Padova, adhering to the “Plastic Free Challenge” campaign launched by the Ministry of the Environment is working to reduce the use of disposable plastics from all primary and middle schools by giving all students a water bottle.

The University of Catania has set itself the goal of distributing 2,500 water bottles to university staff and 9,000 to students. It plans to install 60 natural and sparkling water supply points, including a water house. Following the “Milano Plastic Free” initiative launched by the mayor, the municipality of Milano distributed 100,000 reusable bottles, 40,000 of which were destined for middle school children and 60,000 for elementary school children.

The municipality of Brescia, A2a and Unibs started an initiative that foresees the distribution of 7,500 aluminium water bottles in 29 middle schools in 2020, while 17,000 will be distributed students at the University of Brescia.

Nearly 2,600 reusable bottles were distributed in the municipality of Florence. This is an important element of the plan that Publiacqua, in collaboration with the municipality of Florence and the other municipal administrations, has put in place to bring tap water to schools.

On the initiative of the Amalfi Coast Tourist District, 5,000 Tritan water bottles were purchased and distributed to the students of the Amalfi Coast schools. Tritan is a last-generation plastic polymer that does not contain chemical or toxic substances, and that is resistant to large temperature changes. For this reason, it is dishwasher safe and can be reused without fears over hygiene. According to data released by the Tourist District, the use of a water bottle of this kind reduces carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere, with each Tritan bottle saving the emission of around 80 g of CO2.

Source: Seas at

Refill is a behaviour change campaign designed to make it easier for people to live with less plastic by connecting them to places where they can eat, drink and shop without “pointless packaging”. Anyone can download the free Refill app to tap into a global network of places to “reduce, reuse and refill”. With more than 30,000 places offering free drinking water globally, over 300,000 app downloads and 100 million pieces of plastic avoided to date, Refill has proven that it is possible to create a wave of change and stop plastic pollution at source. See Refill’s website to learn more.  

Freewa is a Croatia-based mobile app for mapping free drinking water locations worldwide. The Freewa World Water Movement promotes free drinking water and the usage of reusable bottles. VIsit Freewa’s website to learn more.  

Tap is a mobile app that maps water refill stations, both public water fountains and participating businesses that permit free tap water refills. Tap’s Refill Station network is partly made up of partnerships with coffee shops and fast-casual restaurants, while also locating the best public places to refill your water bottle around the world.

Tap currently has over 35,000 Refill Stations in 30 countries and 7,300 cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Chicago, Austin, San Diego, Boston, Toronto, Vancouver, Halifax, Ottawa, Montreal, London, Sydney and more. By becoming a Refill Station, businesses proudly welcome new customers into their establishment to refill their water bottles, increasing foot traffic and potential new customer sales.

Visit for more information.

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