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Fount of wisdom

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By installing three new drinking fountains, Borough Market aims to play its part in the fight against plastic pollution

Earlier this year, the London Assembly published a report that brought into sharp focus the growing blight of plastic bottles on London’s environment. The city’s population currently consumes more bottles of water per capita than any other English region—amounting to a staggering total of around 7.7 billion bottles per year—and yet has a shamefully low recycling rate. As a result, discarded plastic bottles make up 10 per cent of all litter found in the Thames, and the impact on river life is pretty desperate: three-quarters of flounder swimming in the Thames were found to have ingested plastic.

For many years now, Borough Market has been doing everything it can to minimise its own impact on the environment, as part of its broader campaign to champion sustainable systems of food production and consumption. None of the rubbish disposed of in the Market currently goes to landfill—cardboard, paper, plastic, glass and wood are all recycled and food waste is sent to an anaerobic digestion plant—and the packaging provided by traders is almost entirely bio-degradable and compostable. The next challenge is to go entirely plastic-free, and that means phasing out the sale of single-use water bottles.

Easy access to water
The Market’s first step has been to install three impressive new drinking fountains, providing visitors with easy access to free water. Each fountain provides three streams of water: two to be drunk from and one to refill water bottles. Over the next six months, sales of bottled water will be phased out across the estate. Plans are in place to instead produce refillable bottles made from recycled plastic, which will be available to buy from stalls around the Market.

The hope is that if an institution as busy and influential as Borough Market can provide water for its millions of visitors without adding to the mountains of plastic that choke up our rivers and oceans, others might be inspired to follow its example. “By using the new Borough Fountains our visitors will be able to refill and refresh without having to buy a plastic bottle each time,” says Darren Henaghan, the Market’s managing director. “We are proud to take this significant step forward as part of our ongoing commitment to making Borough Market Britain’s greenest place to shop, and hope that others will follow suit.”