Leading the refill revolution

The Brief

Londoners consume 7.7 billion bottles of water every year – they represent 10% of all litter in the Thames and contribute to ocean pollution.  

Public awareness of the issue was increasing and Borough Market decided to introduce drinking fountains and phase out the sale of bottled water within six months. The move to become plastic free was a first for a UK market.   

The aim of our communications campaign was to demonstrate that putting the environment ahead of profit does not have to be difficult or expensive, and encourage others to follow suit 

Insights and Approach

Our PR strategy and outreach targeted the public, encouraging use of drinking fountains as an alternative to buying single use bottles when visiting the Market 

We also wanted to reach large businesses in London and throughout the UK which had the potential to have a big impact on the environment by following suit.  

With various retailers and manufacturers keen to declare their efforts to tackle the plastic issue, it was important to set this move in the context of the Market’s wider sustainability credentials. We demonstrated that this was not greenwash, but part of an ongoing commitment to environmental responsibility.  

We provided media with strong imagery to support the story.  

Media outreach was supported by a social media campaign using #BoroughFountains, which extended reach through the sharing of articles and pictures. A bright and engaging visual identity was developed for the fountains including posters, floor vinyl, and reusable water bottles.  

The Outcome

Barley’s PR outreach achieved 107 pieces of coverage, with 372 million opportunities to see/hear.  

National coverage included The Guardian, Mail Online, i, The Sun, Telegraph, Metro, Huffington Post, Refinery 29 and BBC. 

London coverage included Evening Standard, City A.M., BBC Radio London, BBC London, ITV London and London Live. 

The campaign had an overwhelmingly positive reception on social media, including 30,000 shares of The Guardian article and 66,000 views of the BBC London video on Facebook. 

Since the phase out, the fountains are being used by an average of 6,000 people per week. Sales of bottled water have been stopped.  

After the launch, Borough Market was continually referenced in articles as an example to follow.  

The Market was also cited as leading the way in one of four key European trends to follow for 2018 by Mintel.    

Subsequent announcements by the Mayor of London, UK Government, and Network Rail to introduce more public drinking fountains have all referenced Borough Market’s lead.

We continued to receive media requests for comment and interviews almost a year after the launch.  


pieces of coverage



opportunities to see/hear



shares of The Guardian article on social media



views of the BBC London video on Facebook



users per week

Barley were the natural choice for us when looking to launch our public water fountains and becoming the first Market to phase out the use of single use plastic bottles. The team at Barley swiftly developed a great understanding of our organisation, our values and objectives. They worked with us to develop a brand identity and campaign in a very short time scale and the results speak for themselves – national and international print, online and broadcast coverage which far exceeded our expectations.

Kate Howell | Director of Communications and Engagement, Borough Market