A NATIONAL scheme encouraging people to get free water refills from cafes, bars and other public sites to save plastic is launching in Oxford.

New group Refill Oxford is looking for businesses to sign up to a network of ‘stations’ where people can fill up their own bottles with tap water, rather than buy a new one.

The scheme, which originally launched in Bristol, already has more than 8,000 stations signed up across the UK to offer the service.

Now the first locations, including the Turl Street Kitchen, Yellow Submarine and Oxford Town Hall, have got on board in the city.

Chains including Wetherspoons, John Lewis and Costa Coffee have also agreed to take part in their branches.

Driving the project is Georgina Matthews who has recruited a team of enthusiastic student volunteers and is hoping to sign up more than 100 outlets in the next five weeks.

With eight million tourists visiting a year and many more people living and working in the city centre, she is hoping it will make a big difference to the amount of plastic waste in Oxford.

She said: “I’ve seen similar schemes operating in other countries and UK cities and I thought why can’t we do that here?

“Eventually we’re hoping to be able to install water fountains in the city centre but in the meantime this seemed like a good first step.

“Everyone we’ve spoken to so far really understands what we are trying to do and we’re hoping to get many more businesses signed up.

“It helps them to show the public that they are taking this issue seriously and is good for their green credentials.”

The scheme is supported by Oxford City Council and Friends of the Earth Oxford as well Oxford MPs Anneliese Dodds and Layla Moran.

If the initiative is successful in the city centre, it is planned to expand into other areas such as Headington, Cowley, Iffley, west and north Oxford.

Participating outlets will display a sticker in their window to let passers-by know they are part of the scheme.

All the stations will be marked on a map and an app will be available to download so people know where they all are.

Ms Moran said: “Tackling unwanted plastic waste is critical if we are to protect our oceans and allow wildlife to flourish.

“For too long we have been seduced by convenience and it takes innovate projects like Refill Oxford to show us that we can all play our part.

“Me and my bottle-for-life look forward to their vision becoming a reality.”

The initiative is expected to officially launch in the autumn.

Any business that is interested in signing up to the Refill Oxford scheme, or if you want to volunteer, email refill.oxford@gmail.com.