British Embarrassment Is Contributing To The Mountains Of Plastic Waste


Over 7 billion single-use plastic bottles are thrown away in Britain each year. Trong Nguyen/Shutterstock

British people are well known for their politeness and unwillingness to inconvenience other people. But this reluctance to cause a scene may be helping fuel the massive amounts of plastic bottle waste produced in the UK.

A new report published this week has shown that even though – by law – all licensed premises, such as restaurants, bars, and theatres have to provide tap water on request by members of the public free of charge (although establishments may charge for the use of the glass), people in Britain are too embarrassed to ask for it. Instead, many are opting to buy bottled water.


It turns out that three-quarters of British people are unaware of their legal rights when it comes to asking for a glass of tap water. And yet in the same survey, run by YouGov and commissioned by the environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy and manufacturer Brita UK, they also found that 60 percent of people would be more likely to carry a reusable bottle if they knew tap water was freely available.

The survey found that over 70 percent of respondents felt embarrassed to ask for a glass of tap water if they were not making any other purchase, while even if people were buying something else over a third admitted that they felt awkward asking for the tap water in a reusable bottle. In addition, it was found that 57 percent of people felt that all businesses serving food and/or drinks should be required to offer free tap water, not just licensed ones.

“This report demonstrates that the British public wants greater access to tap water when out and about,” says Alison Ogden-Newton, the chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy. “Topping-up in a glass or refillable bottle would encourage us to stay healthy while helping to reduce littering in our streets, parks, and beaches, which is all good.”

With an estimated 7.7 billion single-use plastic bottles being used in in the UK every year, there is a major problem when it comes round to this issue. Even though over two-thirds said they rarely did, people are clearly willing to carry with them reusable bottles. But the report seems to suggest that a lack of access may be deterring people, simply contributing to the masses of plastic waste and pollution that ends up littering the streets, beaches, and oceans.


The charity is calling for changes to the law to make drinking water more accessible, while at the same time upping the campaigns to increase public awareness of their rights to drinking water, and encouraging more people to carry reusable bottles with them.


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  • Britain,

  • embarrassment,

  • legal,

  • law,

  • bottled water,

  • tap water