Calls for water to flow as need for Fringe refill points recognised

Calls have been made to install water refill points in Edinburgh during the Fringe. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Calls have been made to install water refill points in Edinburgh during the Fringe. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Politicians and charities have made fresh calls for free water refill points across the Capital during the festival amid mounting pressure to cut the city’s plastic waste.

SNP MSP Gordon MacDonald is urging festival venues to do more to provide access to water at refill points while Scotland basks in one of the hottest summers in a decade.

The call comes amid growing concerns over waste from single-use plastic during the festival season.

Mr MacDonald, who represents Edinburgh Pentlands, plans to write to organisers and major venues proposing they should install free water refill points.

He said: “Single-use plastics are a prime example of something that we need to tackle. Free water refill points across the city is one solution that we can implement to make that a reality and there is a real thirst for change on this issue.

“If we can get venues across the city offering people places to refill their water bottles, we can start to make a real impact in reducing single-use plastics and making the festivals as environmentally friendly as they can be.”

Previous calls for a network of public drinking fountains to be set up in the city centre were blocked by Edinburgh City Council in June on grounds it would need “significant infrastructure”.

The Fringe Society sells Fringe Keep Cups and water bottles in the Fringe Shop, but does not have a policy or provide advice to venues on water provision. A spokesperson said: “If Fringe venues are licensed then they are legally required to provide tap water fit for drinking.”

Access to drinking water varies across festival venues with some offering refills on request, while major venues charge around £1.50 for a bottle of water.

Venue operator Assembly provide access to drinking water fountains in their university venues and refill bottles on request at their bars as well as water stations at the bars with refill jugs and cups.

But charities and politicians have backed Mr MacDonald’s calls for more to be done to expand refill points and better promote water refills.

Richard Nixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Being a visitor to the city is probably when it’s hardest to avoid bottled water. Buildings of all sorts around Edinburgh are expertly transformed into Fringe venues, so adding some water filling stations should be no great challenge. If this was adopted in a big way, it would make a big dent in the city waste plastic mountain during August.”

Tommy Sheppard MP, who was a founder of the Stand Comedy Club, said: “The Fringe has always been notorious for having small, hot rooms, so having access to free water is crucial. Given the need to cut down on plastic waste, it’s more important than ever for venues to be offering to refill bottles this summer.”

Councillor Lesley Macinnes, transport and environment convener from Edinburgh City Council, said: “The re-introduction of water fountains would be a significant project with financial, planning and hygiene issues. This month we have been promoting refills at Fringe bars and are pleased to hear venues have been happy to offer this.”