Brussels Airport has installed free water fountains allowing travellers to refill bottles and thereby reduce plastic pollution following calls from an activist group.
The move follows a campaign by Facebook group "Free Tap Water In Belgium." The group now calls on travellers to make use of the facility and come with their own bottles rather than accepting free water bottles offered on certain flights or simply buying bottled water.
"We are conditioned to accept anything offered to us 'for free' when we travel on holiday, but in 2022 we should now kindly turn down these offers and not accept the plastic bottles simply because they are handed out for free," the campaign organisers stated.
Belgium is the fourth largest exporter of plastic waste in the world, behind countries with much larger populations: Japan, the US and France.
"Saying no to a water bottle may seem like a small drop in our plastic ocean, but it can inspire others to change their habits and start reducing the insane amount of plastic everywhere."
Plastic shouldn't be only option
Airports and other travel hubs often require water bottles to be emptied before passing through security. For this reason, people often don't bring their own bottles and instead buy plastic ones after passing through security.
"You couldn't get through security at Brussels Airport with water, but there was nowhere to fill a bottle," Free Tap Water In Belgium stated in a press release.
Previously, travellers could buy a "Water With A Cause" bottle for €1 from which the proceeds went to WWF and UNESCO, which actively fight plastic pollution. However, these bottles were themselves made of single-use plastic – a counter-intuitive concept that clearly needed updating.
Now, the free water filling station is available to all passengers in Brussels Airport at gate A45, and also offers sparkling and hot water. The WWF charity box remains in place so that people can support the charity without contributing to plastic pollution.
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The organisation stressed that it isn't shaming people who buy bottled water, but that free tap water should always be an option.
Eurostar and beyond
Eurostar also set up a free water fountain in March 2020 following many requests and conversations with the organisation.
Cities across Belgium are also increasingly installing water fountains, some of which also focus their design on the damage caused by plastic bottles of water, while Brussels announced earlier this year that it would be adding new fountains across the city before the summer.
The organisation has also called on the national railway operator SNCB, Charleroi Airport, and theme parks such as Pairi Daiza and Walibi to install tap water fountains and sell reusable bottles, but said it's a "long process to change such an ingrained culture."