Refill BERLIN: Bristol’s Free Tap Water Initiative Just Reached the German Capital

Places offering free tap water display the "Refill Berlin" sticker in the window.

For people living in Germany's major cities, reducing your plastic waste footprint just got a little bit easier. Hot on the heels of "Refill Hamburg" comes "Refill Berlin" - an initiative that aims to make free drinking water more easily available to the public.

Author Laura Wagener:

Translation Laura Wagener, 07.20.17

We all know the scenario: you’ve been rushing around all day, you’re dying of thirst, and the refillable bottle in your backpack hasn’t got a drop left in it. There’s no water fountain or public bathroom nearby where you can fill it up again, so you have only one option – buying a bottle of water at the next shop you come across. You use it only once, before sticking it in the recycling, or just throwing it away.

In countries like Germany, that enjoy the luxury of drinkable tap water, buying bottled water feels pretty ridiculous. We’re all aware by now that as well as being no healthier than tap water, and bottled water produces huge amounts of completely avoidable plastic waste.

Inspired by the British free tap water campaign “Refill Bristol” the web designer and blogger Stephanie Wiermann set out to make tap water available to all of Hamburg’s thirsty citizens and started the “Refill Hamburg” campaign at the beginning of this year.

How Does the Refill Concept Work?

The Refill concept is really simple: cafés, restaurants, businesses, private individuals and companies can simply put a sticker in their window to show passers-by that they are welcome to come in and fill up their bottles with free tap water. Anyone with access to a tap can become a “donor” and anyone looking to quench their thirst can check out an online map to find the nearest public refill station.

And while Refill Hamburg has been running successfully since the beginning of the year, Germany’s capital wasn’t to be outdone by the country’s second-city for too long. The organisation a tip: tap, based in Berlin’s Neukölln district, has helped make Refill Berlin a reality – their own drinking water map went online just last week, currently pinpointing over 50 refill stations throughout the city.

The organisation is currently on the lookout for more refill stations to sign up to the project. If you’re interested in helping quench a fellow Berliner’s thirst, all you need to do is send the team a quick email. The Berliner Wasserbetriebe (the city’s water utility company) already supports the project, and their spokesperson, Astrid Hackenesch-Rump, is keen to assure any sceptics that Berlin’s tap water is of the highest possible quality: the water gets checked an impressive 21,000 times throughout each year to ensure that it meets all known health and safety standards.

The Refill initiative has the potential to expand to other cities in the future too. The founder of Refill Hamburg, Stephanie Wiermann, has made all of the documents and maps that she designed completely open source, meaning everyone has access to them and it’s super easy for the concept to be reproduced in different places throughout the country.

A Facebook page for “Refill Deutschland” has already been set up. Maybe a German equivalent of the UK’s Refill app will be next?

This article is a translation of the original which first appeared on RESET’s German-language website.

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