The Green Party motion on water fountains in public places is a welcome step towards reducing single use plastic bottles.
This week, my Green Party Seanad colleagues, brought a motion to the Seanad that water connection charges be waived for public water bottle refill stations. At present the connection charge is over €2,000”
A commitment to develop a scheme to provide drinking water fountains nationwide is included in the Programme for Government. I am thrilled that my Green Party colleagues are keeping this item on the agenda. This is essential if we are to reduce plastic bottle litter. In Ireland we purchase an estimated 3 million plastic bottles every day – that is colossal and unsustainable.
Progress is being made and the Senators’ motion is timely. Last year, the Department of Housing funded a refill station pilot, including installs at Ballacolla in County Laois and Tubber in County Offaly located beside the walking tracks around GAA pitches in their locality. These were through the local Group Water Schemes and my thanks to those who worked to progress them.
Uisce Éireann are working with the Commission of the Regulation of Utilities and will engage with our county councils to deliver a wider pilot this year. Ultimately this must be a nationwide scheme. The public must have confidence that they can bring their reusable water bottles with them and there will be a refill station nearby.
I believe we all know the problem that plastic pollution is causing in our countryside and most importantly, in our oceans. Just because we live in land locked counties does not mean we don’t have a responsibility to stem the flow of plastic into the sea. We managed to dramatically reduce our use of plastic bags over 20 years ago – now we must find ways to reduce our use of all single use plastic items.
This government has committed to a deposit and return scheme for plastic bottles to start in February 2024, a levy of disposable cups by the end of this year and a complete ban on items such as plastic cutlery. A water bottle refill scheme will be part of the overall move away from single use plastic and I welcome that.
Details of GWS refill stations in Tubber and Ballacolla can be found here Communities reap benefits of GWS water refill stations project (nfgws.ie)