ADD2217 Plastic bottle reduction project: drinking water fountains

Type of decision: 
Assistant Director's decision
Date signed: 
22 March 2018
Decision by: 
Patrick Feehily, Assistant Director, Environment

Executive summary

The plastic bottle reduction project aims to cut single use plastic drink bottles by increasing capacity of and access to tap water refilling infrastructure in London. The project has already started to test an approach where members of the public can fill their water bottles for free at local businesses. The next part of the project is to install public drinking fountains. Our project partner Zoological Society of London have been granted £25,000 from a water fountain company MIW to pay for up to 20 new drinking water fountains. This ADD is requesting the GLA grant funds ZSL up to £50,000 to cover the costs for installation and connecting these water fountains to the appropriate utilities (water piping and drainage), while ensuring all regulations are adhered to.


That the Assistant Director approves expenditure of up to £50,000 for grant funding ZSL to cover the installations costs of approximately 20 water fountains. This project will support the GLA’s work to explore and evaluate the impact water refill schemes have on reducing single use plastic bottles in London.

Part 1: Non-confidential facts and advice

Introduction and background

This ADD seeks approval to grant up to £50,000 to the Zoological Society London (ZSL) which will be used to pay for the installation costs for installing approximately 20 water fountains across London. This project will enable ZSL to test and learn and inform the GLA on the best process for a wider roll out of water drinking fountains across the city thus helping to reduce the usage of single use plastic bottles.

Previous approvals related to this piece of work:
MD2137 Environment Team Work Programme 2017-18
ADD2193 Plastic bottle reduction and water refill project resources.
ADD2195 Water Refill Pilot Scheme


Plastic blights our streets, finds its way into oceans harming wildlife and takes centuries to break down whilst releasing toxic chemicals. Single use plastic bottles form one of the most prevalent form of plastic packaging in our oceans. Waste and Resources Action Programme’s (WRAP) plastic market situation report estimated the UK uses around 825,000 tonnes of plastic bottles a year. This leads to around 125,000 tonnes used in London. It is estimated that 25% of plastics are recycled by London waste authorities.

A recent report by the London Assembly estimates that around one billion plastic bottles are used in London each year, however, the household recycling stream only collects a small proportion of this because most consumption happens ‘on the go’.

The Mayor’s draft London Environment Strategy (LES) sets out proposals to reduce single use plastic bottles by improving access to drinking tap water. In the strategy, the Mayor calls on food and drink businesses to offer incentives for their customers to use their own reusable water bottles and commits the Mayor to work with partners to install more water drinking fountains. The Mayor will also take the following actions to reduce the number of plastic bottles:

 investigating the feasibility of a deposit return scheme for water bottles through the government’s litter strategy working group
 working with stakeholders including environment groups, Transport for London and LWARB to improve access to tap water through community water refill schemes building on existing schemes
 working with the GLA group to reduce plastic bottle sales and improve access to tap water on all our premises
 working with the supply chain from manufacturers to retailers and waste authorities to trial and roll out coffee cup recycling bins across London

The Mayor has allocated £2.7m revenue funding over 3 years (2018-19 to 2020-21) to roll out more drinking water fountains and reduce plastics in London. The £50,000 grant request will be used from the Mayor’s £2.7m plastic reduction project fund.

ZSL have been pioneering a campaign called #Oneless which aims to help reduce the number of single use plastic bottles in London. The campaign has a collaboration of companies, groups and organisations who all share the same objectives. ZSL have been granted £25,000 by a water fountain company (MIW) for 20 drinking water fountains in London and support the reduction of single use plastic bottles. These fountains need to be installed properly to ensure they are safe, meet regulatory requirements and be in suitable locations and connecting to any existing utility infrastructure. The first stage will be working with ZSL to implement the drinking water fountains across London. At least half of the fountains will be chosen using a competition and expression of interest to ensure fairness. The others will be in strategic locations chosen by ZSL. Each site will be different and we expect the cost of installation to vary per site. We expect installation will be roughly 40/60 revenue and capital costs. These figures will be confirmed shortly. However, the average costs to install a fountain is expected to be around £1200 depending on the location.

To help meet proposals in the LES, shape GLA policy and effect the reduction of single use plastic bottles, we wish to grant fund to ZSL up to £50,000 to cover the installations costs of these water fountains.

Objectives and expected outcomes

The objectives of the work the GLA is undertaking are to:

 Reduce the environmental impact, including resource use and pollution, of single use plastic bottles in London, particularly single use plastic water bottles.
 Increase access to tap (potable) water available to Londoners when ‘on the go’, particularly as an alternative to unhealthier sugary drinks.

The objectives of this proposed ‘plastic bottle reduction project: installation of drinking water fountains project are to:

 Test and learn how to build a drinking water fountain network in London
 Find strategic locations to install drinking water fountains to get the most impact at reducing single use plastic bottles.
 Monitor, measure and evaluate how many water refills the fountains are providing.
 Produce best practice guidance which will inform a wider roll out of a water refill scheme across London.

The expected outcomes are;

 20 water fountains to be installed across London by the end of summer 2018.
 A good understanding of how to roll out more water fountains across London.
 Reduction on single use plastic bottles.

Equality comments

The project’s ambition is to make free drinking water available to all Londoners

The project implementation group, with representatives from across the GLA, are steering the plastic reduction project to ensure equalities and diversity are considered.

The desired outcomes of the project will help provide a healthy and free alternative to sugary drinks.

Other considerations

The Mayor’s draft London Environment Strategy (LES) has specific policies and proposals to reduce single use packaging:


  • Policy 7.1.1 The Mayor will work with Londoners, waste authorities, government and other stakeholders to significantly cut waste
  • Proposal 7.1.1b The Mayor will support campaigns and initiatives to cut the use of single use packaging




Risk description

Mitigation actions

Finding suitable locations difficult due to access to required utilities.

GLA Officers to guide ZSL to procure a company who specialises in installing public fountains. GLA to put ZSL in contact with Thames Water to help identify drinking water access points.

Slow installation due to land ownership permission being granted


Competition/expression of interest will have requirement that permission to install water fountains has been granted.


GLA Officers to guide ZSL to procure a company who specialises in installing public fountains

Hygiene issues of the public using the drinking water fountains – miss use etc.

Part of the agreement to give a free water fountain is that the recipient has a hygienic cleaning regime in place. Similar to Borough Market who clean the fountains three times a day.

Financial comments

Assistant Director’s approval is sought for expenditure of up to £50,000 for grant funding ZSL to cover the installations costs of approximately 20 water fountains. Approximately £20,000 of this grant funding will be revenue and £30,000 may be capital grant to fund capital costs such as fountains, pipes and drainage works. The exact revenue and capital split will be known when ZSL tender and the conversion from revenue to capital will be made accordingly.

The delivery of this work will be completed in 2018-19 and the Environment team’s 2018-19 budget for plastic bottle reduction will fund this grant.

Activity table



Grant agreement signed


Announcement [if applicable]


Delivery Start Date


Main milestones:

  • Deadline for Expression of Interest 


  • Email requesting full application to shortlisted parties


  • Deadline for full application


  • Announcement


  • Installation period start  


  • Installation period end:


Final evaluation: start and finish

1.09.18 to 30.09.18

Delivery End Date


Project Closure


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