A campaign spearheaded by TV star David Attenborough encouraging people to ditch plastic has seen a sharp spike in demand for a North Wales company’s refillable metal drinks bottles.
Promotional merchandising company Sional is helping reduce the number of discarded plastic bottles – with more than 800 thrown away every minute in the UK.
Sional’s environmentally-friendly alternative bottles, made from aluminium and carrying the logo of a business or sports organisation, are proving popular with clients, who give them away at events to promote their own brand.
Schools are also interested, to encourage youngsters to switch from unhealthy bottles of fizzy, sugary soda and instead drink more water to keep them hydrated, in the classroom or sports field.
Llanfairfechan-based Sional is also lining up a re-usable coffee cup made from recycled bamboo, to add to its 60,000-strong range of products.
The drive to ditch the use of plastic has gathered pace after Attenborough’s hit BBC TV series Blue Planet II revealed the devastating impact plastic waste is having on marine life. It is estimated that around 12 million tonnes of plastic pollutes oceans every year with debris often discovered in fish, sea birds and marine mammals.
A UK-wide movement is also calling for more public places where people can refill drinks bottles with fresh water to reduce the use of plastic bottles, while London’s mayor Sadiq Khan wants to roll out a network of water fountains and bottle-refill stations across the capital to help reduce the use of plastic water bottles.
High street supermarket Iceland has pledged to stop using plastics in its products plus rival Asda will no longer sell cheap plastic carrier bags, and retailers such as Pret a Manger, and JD Wetherspoon are also cutting the use of plastic.
There have also been recent fears over BPA, a chemical used to make certain types of plastic, which research shows can affect health if it seeps into water.
Sional, whose clients range from multinational companies, local authorities and health trusts to hotels, sports clubs and schools, wants to take the lead on helping to reduce the use of plastic and hopes to attract more customers to follow suit.
One of its biggest customers – a national manufacturer of building supplies – has decided to phase out its use of plastic bottles as a promotional giveaway, and will instead use the aluminium containers on a permanent basis.
Schools across North Wales are also interested in the metal bottles from Sional, said managing director Alan Jones.
“It’s a win-win scenario for us because we’re reducing plastic whilst also promoting our brand.
“We’re trying to avoid plastic altogether by using aluminium water bottles and we’re also looking at a coffee cup made from recycled bamboo.
“It’s all about promoting the change in attitude and to encourage the use of reusable bottles and cups.
“A lot of companies are switching from handing out plastic water bottles with branded labels, such as at conferences and trade shows, to giving away refillable branded bottles.
“One of our biggest customers are doing this. We’ve supplied them with the refillable bottles so that they can avoid using plastic bottles.
“This will become part of their regular product list that they buy and they’ll phase out the single use plastic water bottles, which we supplied previously.”
He added: “Universities across the UK are giving their students refillable water bottles and refillable coffee cups, and offering discounts in their cafeterias if reusable mugs are used.
“As a company we want to be supplying these places with those cups and bottles. Councils and schools are also looking to switch to reusable bottles and cups.
“We have spoken to a few schools locally who are looking at supplying each child with a refillable bottle, including one in Bangor who are very interested in our product.”
According to the not-for-profit organisation City to Sea’s national Refill campaign, which has led to the creation of 1,600 tap water refill points across the UK, the average household uses 480 plastic bottles a year but just over half of that figure are actually recycled.
It means that more than 35 million plastic bottles are being used every day in the UK, but almost 16 million are not being put out for recycling. If just one in ten people refilled once a week, there would be an estimated 340 million less plastic bottles a year in circulation.
A survey by YouGov and Keep Britain Tidy last year revealed that 70% of individuals questioned agreed that tap water should be more freely available, while 59% said they would be more likely to reuse a water bottle if they could easily fill it in shops, parks and other locations.
Such stark figures and the increasing impact plastic waste is having on ocean life is precisely why Alan was so keen for Sional to play its part.
He said: “It’s so important that we cut down on the use of plastic bottles, and general plastic packaging for that matter.
“We all have a duty to play our part and that is why we decided to do this giveaway.
“We’ve had really good feedback from our clients and they can see that the benefits are massive.
“Not only does it help the environment but the bottles look good, are nicer to use as they can keep your drink chilled and in the long run are less expensive than having single-use plastic bottles.”