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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.