A CAMPAIGN to tackle the impact of plastic has been launched in the region with plans to enable people to refill water bottles for free.

Northumbria Water is leading the scheme in Durham and is urging businesses in the city to sign up.

It is creating a network of cafes, restaurants and bars where people can get access to water to fill up bottles.

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Chief executive, Heidi Mottram, said: “The BBC’s latest series, Blue Planet II, has brought home to everyone the devastating impact that plastic waste has on our environment, oceans and marine life, and the appetite from the public to reduce their plastic waste has grown significantly.

“As an ethical company, Northumbrian Water is committed to leading the charge on this initiative and we’re trying to make it as easy as possible for people to stay hydrated on the move, without adding to the disposable plastics problem.”

There are currently around 30 venues in Durham which are taking part.

The scheme in Durham is one of 13 running across England, which is set to be expanded across the North-East in 2018.

People can find out where they can access refill points by downloading an app on their phones, which will show users their nearest venue, or by looking out for the logo.

Michael Roberts, chief executive of Water UK, which is rolling out the scheme nationwide, said: “As an industry with a strong focus on the environment we are passionate about tackling the problems caused by plastic bottles, which clog up rivers and drains, and pollute our seas. By refilling water bottles, we can all help turn this harmful tide of plastic waste.

“This country has some of the best drinking water in the world and we want everyone to benefit from it. This scheme will do that by making it easier for people to refill their bottles wherever they work, rest, shop or play.”

Meanwhile members of Durham County Council have voted to move forward with plans to try and reduce its use of single use plastics (SUPs) after it emerged 72,400 plastic cups were used by the authority in the last year.

On Wednesday, members voted unanimously in favour of a motion put forward by Liberal Democrat councillor Mark Wilkes.

He said: “The impact of SUPs on our environment is immense. Oceans around the world now have up to 50,000 piece of plastic on the surface per square mile.

“So much of our culture has become throw-away and it is simply unsustainable. The council is using over 70,000 disposable cups alone – which are not biodegradable. This cannot continue.”

The council’s overview and scrutiny committee will now be looking at ways for it to phase out use of SUPs, as well as looking at ways to urge businesses, organisations and residents to go plastic free.

The app can be downloaded by visited www.refill.org.uk.