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Rewriting the Book – The Library of Birmingham Joins the Refill Movement

Despite having only been completed in 2013, the Library of Birmingham (LoB) has become one of the city’s iconic structures. A wedding cake rendered from glass and gold, it attracts almost as many visitors for its external splendour as its internal value. It is multi-layered, hosting millions of books and other resources within, while a glorious roof garden crowns its top. Awarded BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method) Excellent certification for its design objectives, it is also known for its green credentials. But until this spring it was missing one vital asset: a bottle filling station. And who else would the managers call to remedy this situation, but MIW?

The LoB Bottle Filler

The library’s Facilities and Systems Manager, Lee Mills, had received a number of requests from thirsty students. Reluctant to both spend unnecessary money and contribute to the global plastic waste problem, the students were looking for access to free drinking water. With drinking water proven to enhance concentration, which makes studying easier, they had good reason for the request. Having become aware of MIW Water Cooler Experts from our work at Canary Wharf, Mr Mills gave us a call. And it didn’t take us long to get to work.

The library required a water bottle filling station that was capable of dealing with a high volume of users without compromising on quality. It needed to be easy to use and mess-free. After all, you don’t want to wreck RIBA Stirling Prize short-listed architecture with overflowing waste collectors and splashing faucets. The MIW Branded Eco-Dispenser was the obvious option. Delivering chilled water at speed, the unit is capable of filling up to 680 regular 500ml sports bottles per hour. But that’s just one of the reasons why it is the UK’s best-selling indoor WRAS-approved bottle refill station. It is low maintenance, hygienic and provides hands-free access for users with disabilities. The water is filtered for purity and chilled for flavour, while a ‘turbo’ drain deals with any waste water cleanly. However, it also had one more selling point for the Library of Birmingham: it could be branded.

The LoB’s new bottle filler, which is situated on the mid ground floor, has been finished according to the library’s bespoke design. The filigree which graces much of the exterior of the building has been used to create an attractive background, adorned by the words Rewriting the Book – Refill today, help save plastic from entering our seas and oceans. And with the sheer number of visitors the library receives, that help really could be significant.

About the Library of Birmingham

More than 35,000 people visit the library every week. It attracted 1.5 million visitors in the first six months after it opened alone. It is home to both nationally and internationally significant collections, including one of the two most important Shakespeare collections in the world.

With that in mind, we don’t want to overstate MIW’s contribution. But taking steps to reduce waste plastic IS important. And it has the potential to make a massive impact on the state of our world, both now and in the future. Because of that, we’re really proud to be playing our part. Especially in such extraordinary locations as the LoB.

You can find the Library of Birmingham’s new bottle filling station on the mid ground floor. It is accessible 9am-9pm Mon-Fri and 11am-5pm Sat.

Scotland Continues to Top Up from the Tap

Saturday, 30 March 2019 07:30:00 Europe/London

Scotland Continues to Top Up from the Tap

Scotland is officially one of the wettest places in Europe. Glasgow is fourth on the European city rainfall list. So, when you think of selling water to Scotland, you’d be forgiven for making analogies relating to Eskimos and ice. You might be surprised to learn then, that Scottish Water has recently invested in doing just that! Only, they’re not selling water as such, more the concept and the culture of it…

Working with MIW Water Cooler Experts, Scottish Water has started the installation of 35 new water refill stations across Scotland. In providing free drinking water in selected high-footfall locations across the country, the organisation is promoting a refill culture that everyone can get behind.

Top Up from the Tap in Scotland

From the end of the West Highland Way in Fort William, to the front of Edinburgh’s Parliament Building, where the first installation took place in 2018, Halsey Taylor water refill stations have been appearing. They are weather-proof, vandal-resistant and easy to use. And they’ve been designed for low-maintenance longevity, with in-built strainers for water quality and silver-ion antimicrobial coating for hygiene. Each one has also been customised to display Scottish Water’s messaging, and to track the unit’s usage. The idea is that if enough people use them, reducing the number of single-use 500ml water bottles purchased and discarded in the areas around these refill points, more businesses and organisations will be encouraged to get on board. And the more free drinking water points become available, the more people will use them.

But why should this matter?

Every Little Thing Makes a Small Difference

This is the strapline of Scottish Water’s environmental policy. And it’s a good one, because everyone really can make a difference when it comes to the environment. Particularly the environmental disaster that is waste plastic. And all of these little differences can meld together to create an enormous impact.

Each Scottish household generates more than a tonne of waste every year. Much of it isn’t recycled – even though it could be. If we all start using refillable drinks bottles and topping up from the tap rather than purchasing plastic bottles on the go, it could make a world of difference. Not just in cutting the amount of waste that goes into the environment – which is the key focus just now, and rightly so. But also, in cutting the emissions that are released in plastic’s production. Oh, not to mention cutting the amount of cash coming out of each person’s pocket. It’s a win-win-win situation.

So far, MIW has worked on 10 installations for Scottish Water. We’ve worked closely with our global partner Elkay, who manufacture the Halsey Taylor bottle fillers, ensuring that the project is delivered on budget and on time. And it’s been great to see the enthusiasm with which each bottle filling station has been welcomed by the locals. Now, we can’t wait to get started on the remaining 25 locations that will take us to the highlands and islands, as well as the beautiful mainland. So, get ready to drink your fill Scotland; MIW and Scottish Water are on the way!

The Village Pump Returns to Freshford

Wednesday, 27 March 2019 09:29:38 Europe/London

The Village Pump Returns to Freshford

For most of us these days, living without hot and cold running water in our homes is unimaginable. And yet not so long ago – within the last hundred years, in fact – many British homes relied on hand-pumped water. Lavatories were external. Hot water was heated manually. And, for some, cold water was fetched in, in a bucket from the communal pump. Although a significant step up from the well, and delivering sanitary, piped water, it was still a far cry from the way that we live today. While absolutely no one can be nostalgic for those days, there is something slightly romantic about the idea of a village pump. It’s somewhere to meet and chat; a place to bring a community together. And it’s that sense of community that is being revived in a small Somerset village called Freshford.

The Freshford Village Pump

Now, the people of Freshford obviously haven’t all gone mad and decided to eschew their contemporary plumbing in favour of a vintage pump. Instead, they’ve taken the thoroughly modern step of installing a public drinking fountain and bottle refill station at the community café and shop. 

Opened by HRH Prince Richard the Duke of Gloucester, the new bottle filler (AKA The Village Pump) was installed as means to help cut waste plastic. Both locally and globally. Inspired by Sir David Attenborough's call to action in the BBC's Blue Planet II, the community was looking for a way to do their bit. Funds were raised by villagers, and Wessex Water chipped in £500 as part of its celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of Watermark – a scheme devised to support community and environmental projects… MIW had the privilege of carrying out that installation. And this is exactly the kind of project that we love to work on.

Starting a Sea Change in Water Consumption

Bottle filler installations are always encouraging for us, because it feels like we’re making a difference; joining the fight to cut Halsey Taylor bottle refill station 4420 UK Supplierwaste plastic. But the most heartening thing about Freshford’s Village Pump is the way in which it has been received by children. Kids from local schools were in attendance at the opening. Despite the fact that it’s essentially a glorified green metal tube delivering water – something these kids have always been able to get whenever they’ve wanted it – they seemed very switched on to the idea behind the bottle filler. Many of them would have seen the terrifying degree of the waste plastic problem on television. Others simply want to do their best to protect the planet and the creatures we share it with. And if we can encourage this mindset, and get children to adopt greener habits – refilling rather than repurchasing – they will hopefully carry them with them into adulthood. And that’s where change really begins to happen.

The Freshford Village Pump – a Halsey Taylor 4420-BF1U - Endura II Tubular outdoor bottle refill station has been designed to stand the test of time too. It’s weather-proof, vandal-resistant, hygienic and easy to use. It also requires very little maintenance. It should grace the Galleries in Freshford for very many years to come. And all the while it will be contributing to a global sea change and helping to stem the tide of single-use plastic.

Feeling the Love for Free Drinking Water in Redbridge’s Valentines Park

MIW’s work with the #OneLess Campaign, the London Drinking Fountain Fund and the London Mayor has to be some of the most satisfying of my career – and I’m proud of many of MIW’s achievements. The aim has been to reduce single-use plastic waste throughout London, through the provision of freely accessible drinking water. MIW’s part was the donation, installation and maintenance of 20 drinking fountains-cum-bottle fillers. After much groundwork, during the course of the last few months things have really started to pick up pace, with a number of bottle fillers finding new homes around the city. And the most recently placed was in Redbridge’s Heart of Valentines Park.

Those of you familiar with the area will know that Valentine’s Park has been in possession of a very fine drinking fountain since 1898. There’s just one tiny snag: it doesn’t work. It’s beautiful, but far from functional. Earlier this year, Redbridge Council announced plans to restore the fountain, along with others in Ilford and Wanstead parks, but then the #OneLess Drinking Fountain Fund came along. Now, instead of using hard-pressed council funds to return drinking water to Redbridge, we’ve installed a brand new Halsey Taylor Elkay 4405BF bottle filler with inbuilt drinking fountain.

Weather-proof, vandal-proof, hygienic, and designed to be accessible to all prospective users – including those in wheelchairs – the fountain has the potential to make a real difference to park life. Not only will it provide clean, fresh water on tap to all who need it, but it should hopefully also reduce litter throughout the park. And this is significant to the #OneLess campaign because of the presence of Cran Book in the park. With more and more waste plastic finding its way into our waterways and destroying our marine life – and the other creatures that feed on them – anything that prevents waste plastic from potentially entering our environment has to be a good thing.

The Leader of Redbridge Council, Cllr Jas Athwal, recently explained why the borough wanted to become involved in the London Drinking Fountain Fund project: “As part of being a greener borough and a better place to live, we are committed to bringing water fountains and bottle refill points into operation across our borough. Providing simple ways of refilling and accessing free water not only cuts down on plastic bottle usage but helps people stay healthy and hydrated. We are delighted to be partnering with the Mayor of London and #Oneless London Drinking Fountain Fund on this new drinking water facility, which I hope will be a popular addition to Valentines Park.”

So many parks throughout the UK are in a similar situation to the Heart of Valentines in Redbridge. They all had drinking fountains – until they fell out of fashion, and we all fell in love with plastic. Imagine how much nicer the world could be if we could return to a time when seeing single-use plastic bottles was a novelty. Wouldn’t it be lovely to stroll in your local park and not see bottles littering the benches and floating in the ponds? It’s not beyond the realms of possibility to get to that stage… And the starting place is for us all to just use #OneLess bottle every week, and see if we can build from there.

Mike Winter - Managing Director 

Simply the Best: Choosing the Best Water Bottle Refill Station for Your Business

Water bottle refill stations are fast becoming the must-have item for all eco-conscious businesses. They’re a great way to provide an additional service to your customers – and staff – while quietly showcasing the fact that your business is environmentally-aware. But, with so many makes and models now available, how do you know which is the best one for you?

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Top of the Class – The Most Popular Bottle Filler for Schools

Monday, 12 November 2018 07:00:00 Europe/London

Top of the Class – The Most Popular Bottle Filler for Schools

We work with a lot of schools at MIW Water Cooler Expert. Over the years, we’ve installed thousands of drinking water solutions. And if there’s one thing that we’ve learnt, it’s that schools, colleges and universities have very specific needs. And while there’s still room for the traditional stop and slurp drinking fountains, they don’t cater for every demographic. Teenage girls, for example, aren’t overly keen on having to wipe their chins are every drink! And yet, while bottle fillers are growing in popularity, not everyone carries a bottle on them, or wants to add to the weight of the textbooks and tech dragging at their shoulders with a sloshing drinks bottle in their bag.

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Is the UK Lagging Behind on Plastic Waste Reduction?

Friday, 7 September 2018 06:21:00 Europe/London

Is the UK Lagging Behind on Plastic Waste Reduction?

A few weeks ago, India made a massively surprising and massively encouraging pledge: to ban all single-use plastics by 2022. This is an enormous undertaking for a four-year period, especially for a country that is broadly recognised as one of the poorest nations in the world. And that’s really the surprise of the announcement, because common sense dictates that it should be the richer economies leading the way.Plastic waste India

Plastic is now considered to be one of the greatest environmental threats that the world faces. It’s estimated that if nothing is done to reverse the current state of affairs, by 2050, 99% of all seabirds will have ingested plastic and there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. And we’ve reached this stage because, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, “Every bit of plastic ever made still exists.”

Think about it: Every bit of plastic ever made still exists. All the straws, teaspoons, drinks bottles and bits of clingfilm. And that’s before we’ve got the sturdier stuff; the toys, laptop cases, car interiors and window frames.

No wonder the seas are choking on the stuff.

So, the news that India is taking a stance and banning all single-use plastics from production is a really positive and significant move. But what about the rest of the world? What about the UK?

It made the news a few months ago when the UK’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, made a similar pledge, but her pledge was rife with caveats – most notably, that the UK would ban single-use plastics 'where it is “economically practical” to do so'. And fair enough; no one wants to see the UK find itself back in another recession, but if India can work towards the total removal of single-use plastics from production, why can’t everyone else? Why can’t we?

We’re already making headway with plastic carrier bags. And plastic straws, stirrers and cottons buds are likely to be removed from sale from next year (likely – again another caveat-filled pledge). But, we all need to do more if we’re going to make a difference. And changing our drinking culture is an easy place to start.    

Removing single-use plastic drinks bottles is as simple as providing adequate alternatives. If people have access to drinking water when they need it, then the practise of purchasing and binning plastic bottles will soon be forgotten. And with more and more businesses and organisations installing sports bottle filling stations on their premises voluntarily, it wouldn’t cost the Government much to build a public drinking water infrastructure, filling in the gaps that business has left. That alone would remove 150 plastic bottles per adult per year, which would be a tremendous start.

I’m thrilled that India has vowed to make such a positive change. With a population exceeding 1.3 billion, this move could make such a hugely positive difference. But, I can’t help but feel that it leaves the UK – and other influential countries – with a lot of catching up to do.

 

Can We Beat the EU at Its Own Game?

Monday, 6 August 2018 11:23:00 Europe/London

Can We Beat the EU at Its Own Game?

Bottle filling stations could lead the way in the EU’s plastic reduction challenge.

Whether you were for or against in the original vote, there’s little denying that so far, the Brexit negotiations have been far from edifying. The tit-for-tat tactics have often seemed like a petulant children’s game, with little gain to show for it on either side. We have now, finally seen something positive emerge though – a challenge to cut back on plastic. 

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Success Across the UK’s Rail Networks

Monday, 30 July 2018 09:49:00 Europe/London

Success Across the UK’s Rail Networks

We’ve been working with The London Mayor’s office and the #OneLess bottle campaign to help reduce the amount of plastic waste in London (as well as further afield), through the provision of free-to-use drinking fountains. And it’s this that has led to the above headline.

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