Let’s cut back on pointless plastic – It’s time to Refill more…

Pointless plastic packaging on our food is everywhere and each day we’re faced with having to really think about the food we’re buying and how it’s impacting our planet, but there is a solution…

Introducing the future of Refill

The campaign continues to grow


As Refill continues to grow, we’re now looking at how we can expand. Refill will cover, not just drinking water, but to be able to offer you refills on your coffee cup, lunchbox, groceries. And even cleaning products and toiletries to help eliminate those pointless plastics in our lives.

People are getting more and more concerned about plastic pollution. Particularly concerned about single-use water bottles and takeaway food containers. We’re already helping to reduce pollution from water bottles with our Refill app, and now we’re starting to tackle takeaway food containers and pointless single-use plastic.

A great visionary thinker

We’ve launched a pilot in Bristol and Oxford thanks to the funding from our recent Volvo Visionaries award win. Volvo Visionaries is a celebration of British entrepreneurs whose businesses are driven by a motivation beyond pure economic growth. All have one thing in common – the ability to improve our world. We’re so proud to have won and extremely excited to be able to expand the Refill campaign.

How it works

You can now use the app to find the nearest places that offer what you want to refill. If you’re heading out for your lunch and a coffee, you can tap the map to find places that offer refills using your own coffee cups and lunchboxes.

And if they offer a discount for using a reusable, we’ll show this on the app too. Plus, we’ve also included places where you can take your own containers when doing your grocery shop too.

Who we’re working with

To maximise the success of the pilot we’ve not only been updating the app to make it easier for our users to find what they want to refill. But also, with local organisations to embed key behavioural change principles within their businesses. We want to encourage staff to carry their reusables when they head out to grab their lunches.

And through our amazing network of Refill Stations, we’ve been able to highlight which Refill Stations are encouraging you to bring your own containers.

Here are some of the Refill Stations already onboard


We’ve pulled together some frequently asked questions to help you understand the campaign and how it works in more details. 

What is this new Refill campaign?

People are getting more and more concerned about plastic pollution, particularly single-use water bottles and throwaway food containers. We are already helping to reduce pollution from water bottles with our Refill app, and now we’re starting to tackle food containers. Basically, we are adding extra Refill services to the app, so you can find shops and cafes that are willing to refill your reusable cups and containers with hot drinks, food, and even household items like toiletries.

How do I Refill more than my reusable water bottle?

  • Use the app to identify and locate the nearest venues that offer what you want. 
  • Take along a clean, appropriate, sealable container of an adequate size. 
  • The venue will refill it with your chosen drink, meal, food item or toiletry. 
  • Some businesses may offer discounts for bringing your own container – if so, the app will flag this up. 

What can I refill?

You can refill appropriate reusable bottles and containers with water, hot drinks, food (takeaways and loose items), toiletries and groceries.

The selection will depend on where you are – at this stage, we are just trialling the app, so some venues will only offer a limited choice. Currently, if you’re in one of our pilot areas the app will show you which Refill services are available at each Refill Station.

Where are you running the pilot?

To start with, we are trialling the pilot Bristol and Oxford. For the launch, we’ve signed up over 200 Refill Stations in Bristol and Oxford. They cover the full range of services, so if you’re in the area do try them out and log your Refills to let us know how you got on.

Do I need to log my Refills?

Yes please – logging your Refills in the app, will help you see how much impact you’re making in the fight against plastic pollution. And it will also help us measure the success of our pilot to see if we’ll be rolling this out across the UK.

How will I know I’m in a pilot area?

Simply open the Refill app. The screen will let you know if you’re in a pilot area. Then just tap the icons to select the kind of Refill service you want, and the map will refresh to show only the Refill Stations that offer your chosen service.

How does the pilot work?

During the trial period, which runs from early November until February you’ll be able to find Stations in Bristol and Oxford that offer the additional Refill services. As well as the usual water Refills, they will also offer Refill services for hot drinks, food and household goods.

Are there any rules about refilling?

When you take your own containers to a pilot Station, you need to make sure they are clean, sealable, size-appropriate and fit for purpose. If you’re buying hot food or drinks, for example, don’t take a container that is only suitable for cold food. Also, when refilling at your local zero waste shop, you’ll need to make sure the containers you’re using are like for like, so, for example, don’t use an old cleaning product bottle for food or beauty refills.

Refill Stations

I’m a Refill Station - why should I get involved in this campaign?

Joining our trial offers you all kinds of business and promotional benefits:

  • Cost savings: thanks to the reduced number of cups and containers you’ll need to provide.
  • Improved customer relations and loyalty: people have a far more positive view of businesses that take positive steps to cut down on plastic use and reduce their plastic footprint.
  • Reduced waste: as customers will take away their containers to wash and reuse.
  • Keeping up with your competitors: several leading high street retailers and food-to-go operators have announced that they are moving towards refills and allowing customers to bring their own containers (g. Waitrose, M&S, Leon, Neal’s Yard, the Body Shop and Boots).

How can I get involved in the pilot?

If you’re a current Refill Station in Bristol or Oxford and would like to get involved, simply email [email protected] to update your station details and let us know that you can offer more than tap water. 

You need to be able to offer some or all of the following: takeaways in coffee cups, lunchboxes and food containers; refills for toiletries or household goods; and unwrapped groceries.

In your email, tell us the name of your business, what you offer, and whether you offer a discount for people using their own containers. We’ll do the rest. 

What refills are included in the pilot?

We’re looking for Refill Stations that offer refills for tap water, hot drinks, food takeaway meals or loose grocery products and household goods, including toiletries.

I have concerns about offering refills – what should I do?

We understand that there are some concerns around hygiene, that’s why we’re encouraging people to only bring clean containers to be refilled. If you don’t feel happy to refill due to cleanliness or hygiene, then it’s your place to refuse to refill.

What if I’m not happy with the container a customer has brought in?

If you are concerned that a customer’s container is inappropriate, dirty, unhygienic, too fragile or generally not fit for purpose, you are quite entitled to refuse it.

We’re using compostable bioplastics for our takeaways, is that ok?

Compostable bioplastics have been touted as the solution to our single-use, throw-away lifestyle, allowing consumers to enjoy takeaway coffees guilt-free. Turns out, it’s not that simple. The issue of bio-plastics is complicated – not only for consumers but for also for many small businesses who have been trying to do the right thing by making the switch from plastics to bioplastic alternatives. Although interpreted and sometimes marketed as such, compostable plastic takeaway packaging wasn’t actually designed to be the solution to plastic pollution. Instead, it was designed to tackle food waste being contaminated with plastic packaging.

What are bioplastics?

To be called a bioplastic, a product has to be either biodegradable or made from plant-based materials. But being made from a plant doesn’t mean a product will degrade like a plant, and being biodegradable doesn’t mean a product will break down with food waste in the kitchen.

In reality, most bioplastics need to be composted at very high temperatures over a period of several weeks in an industrial composter, and not at home in our garden compost as many of us think. We don’t currently have the right infrastructure to compost bioplastics in the UK. Find out more in our disposables guide.

Advice for businesses

What can we do as a business to support the campaign?

Encourage your staff to:

  • Bring in reusable containers and take them when they go out to get lunch.
  • Set up a ‘Tupperware’ box filled with containers for your staff you borrow if they don’t have one
  • Sign up to the Refill app to find Refill Stations offering the food and drinks they want.

If you want to find out more, you can contact the Refill team here for more information.

Why should we be encouraging our teams to take their own containers?

Many of your staff will be concerned about the amount of plastic pollution in our oceans, so showing them that the management is also concerned will reassure and motivate them.  

On a practical level, it will also reduce waste (and the cost of waste disposal) in your workplace, as fewer containers will be thrown away at lunchtimes.

About the app

Where are the Refill pilot Stations located?

If you’re in Bristol or Oxford, just open your Refill app and it will notify you that you’re in a Refill pilot area. It will then show you which Refill Stations offer services other than water Refills. 

The app will also tell you which places offer a discount to customers bringing their own reusable cups or containers.

I’d like to use my own container – what should I be aware of?

Make sure your container is sturdy, sealable, and the right size for the amount of refill you want. It also needs to be clean; some locations will refuse to do refills if they are concerned about poor hygiene or cross contamination.

How do I logged what I’ve refilled?

Once you’ve collected your Refill, log it by selecting the corresponding onscreen icon and tapping Refill.

Your Refill will appear on your Account page, where you’ll now be able to see all the different kinds of Refills you’ve done.

When will the other Refill Services come to my town or city?

We’ll be running the pilot from November 2019 until February 2020, when we’ll be reviewing the impact to assess if the pilot has been a success and outline plans to update the app and share the extended campaign across the UK.