By Ashley Boyle
Gair Rhydd interviewed Ben Beylard and Arthur Hajaali, two PhD students who are the lead coordinators for Refill Cardiff, an organisation committed to reducing plastic, in particular single use bottles. To do this, they approach local businesses and ask for them to sign up to the #RefillRevolution, which allows anyone with a bottle to fill it up with tap water, reducing the amount of unnecessary plastic waste. Following their Cardiff launch in November, Ben, Arthur and their team of volunteers have had an additional 65 companies sign up to Refill, meaning there’s now a total of 115 Refill stations throughout Cardiff to choose from as well as the further 14,000 drinking locations nationwide. If each one of these stations was used once a day for a year, it would stop 4 million plastic bottles being made, demonstrating the impact this scheme has on the environment.
In order to see all of the Refill locations available, users should download the app, which is available on iOS and Android devices. The app displays a map of Cardiff, showing all the Refill water taps ready to fill up your bottle when on the go in Cardiff. Most recently, the cruelty free brand Lush on Queen Street signed up as well as several Cardiff University locations. The University recently stated that they are in the process of phasing out the use of single-use plastic, in particular plastic bottles, as well as improving recycling facilities. They also shared that in the last academic year, the number of water bottles purchased for catering and hospitality purposes dropped by over 25%, 22,320 more that the previous year.
As well as building up station numbers, Ben and Arthur want to help spread awareness of the affects our current plastic usage is having on the planet. One of their main objectives is to help educate children about the issue, encouraging activities and discussions at schools, demonstrating that whilst there is a need for plastic, there is also a need for it to be recycled. When asked about why this is important to students, Arthur explained that “we are the generation that have understood that having a high consumption of plastic is destroying our planet. I feel we are more aware compared to our parents’”. He expresses how whilst this is a small change, it is still a change, nonetheless. “This small action will not revolutionise the industry. The industry is not going to say ‘Okay, they’re good people’. They don’t care. So, what we need to do is change people’s mindsets for them to consume less and for them to change their way of living, and that’s why education is so important. If you start at the root and make children understand that, they tell their parents and it snowballs”.
He compared this change to the more recent reuse of plastic bags and conversion to paper straws, but also mentioned that the plastic straw industry is far smaller than that of the plastic bottle. Ben, however, stated that whilst enough is not currently being done to tackle the problem, it is getting there. “It’s not there yet. Little by little as the mentality changes, as with the straws. It will take a lot of time as people need to realise the problem themselves”. Arthur also says in particular how Cardiff has changed quite fast, commending the recently established business Ripple, a shop which encourages customers to use their own containers when buying goods to reduce waste.
If you would like to learn more about what Refill do or would like to get involved by volunteering, you can contact the team via social media at @RefillCardiff or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.