Refill Hygiene advice

We know the pandemic has been a challenging time for many of you and we appreciate there’s been a lot of confusion and concern around hygiene and reusables. That’s why City to Sea have:

Brought together over 20 cross-sector organisations to form a reuse taskforce called REPEAT.

Created industry guidance on how you can safely offer Water Refills and Contactless Coffee.

Launched a petition to get reusables back on the menu.


  • Over 120 health scientists have stated reusables are safe as long as basic hygiene is followed i.e. wash your hands!
  • There have been 0 cases of COVID-19 being transmitted through food or food packaging. Whilst no-one can say it’s “impossible” (as it’s a new virus and everyone is UBER cautious), even the FCA says “it’s very unlikely”.
  • Compliance teams at big chains like Costa Coffee + Starbucks are accepting reusable coffee cups. And zero waste retailers like LUSH, Better Food, Planet Organic + many more never stopped people using their reusables.


So it IS safe for our Refill Stations to offer refills, providing the guidance and checklist below is followed and basic hygiene standards are adhered to.



The safety of our users and your customers is our number one priority. Here in the UK we’re lucky to have some of the best quality tap water in the world, that goes through an extremely stringent testing process before it reaches our taps. By following our guidance and checklist below, you are helping to make sure that refilling is safe and hygienic for everyone.


By signing up as a Refill Station offering water refills, you agree to provide wholesome and clean drinking water on request when someone asks for a refill.

All owners and occupiers of business premises have a responsibility to ensure that their plumbing system complies legally with the Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations 1999, and this applies to Refill Stations too. Water companies may occasionally carry out inspections on business premises, including Refill Stations, to ensure water safety and hygiene in line with the Regulations.

Your tap or dispenser

The tap or dispenser that you identify for Refill use should be a clean, hygienic stand-alone cold water tap and must not be located in the toilets or over an open drain.

All of your staff should be made aware that this is the tap designated for Refill use. And you might even want to label it, you can find downloadable posters on our resources page.

Keeping your Refill Station clean

If the tap used for refills hasn’t been used in a while, run the water for a short while first to clear any stale water from your plumbing system.

When providing refills, the bottle should never touch the tap or jug. Keep a clear gap to avoid any potential for contamination.

When someone hands over a bottle to be refilled always ask them to remove the lid themselves, and never touch your hand to the neck of the bottle/glass.

As a Refill Station, if someone’s bottle smells bad or looks unclean, you can refuse to refill.

Your duty of care…

If you are installing new infrastructure for your Refill Station or altering or extending your plumbing system – for example, when installing a water dispenser or cooler unit – you have a legal duty to notify your local water company in advance and you should use an approved WaterSafe contractor for the installation to ensure it complies with the relevant regulations. 

 If a water company ‘enforcement’ or ‘do not drink’ notice is served on a premises signed up as a Refill Station, the water company will inform City to Sea and the premises will be removed from the Refill app until the water company is satisfied that all outstanding water quality and hygiene issues are resolved. If app users have concerns over hygiene they are able to report these and the relevant water company will investigate where appropriate. 

For more information about water quality and hygiene in your business, check out this video from the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme: ‘How the plumbing regulations affect you’


Contactless coffee

Reusables can be used safely and accepting them doesn’t have to be complicated – in fact, it can be super simple! That’s why we’ve developed the following guidance for accepting reusable coffee cups safely.

Take-away packaging

As hospitality outlets reopen, we know there are a lot of priorities to consider and packaging is up there for many environmentally conscious businesses that are now having to turn to take-away models to stay afloat.