The Refill initiative, led by plastic pollution campaign group City to Sea, involves cafes, bars, restaurants and other businesses opening their doors to allow members of the public to top up their re-fillable water bottles, reducing the reliance upon single-use plastics.
Directors and managers from across the water company were split into teams and given an hour to meet the challenge of encouraging as many businesses as possible to sign up to the campaign.
During the course of the Apprentice-style challenge, 179 businesses agreed to join the campaign, with discussions to be had on many more. Each is given window stickers and can register on the Refill mobile app, so that members of the public can see on a map where they are welcome to top up.
Refill was launched in the North East in the Durham area at the end of 2017 and, while businesses anywhere in the UK can sign-up, Northumbrian Water is currently focussing on the Newcastle area as it formally rolls the campaign out across the region.
Prior to today′s activity, more than 250 North East Refill Stations were registered on the app, which is available for Apple and Android devices.
Northumbrian Water took the lead on bringing Refill to the North East after representatives of City To Sea, the not-for-profit organisation that founded the campaign, took part in the company′s first Innovation Festival in 2017. One of the challenges in the 2018 Festival will see young people looking at how to reduce plastic waste.
Heidi Mottram, Chief Executive of Northumbrian Water, was one of those who took part in the challenge.
She said: "Refill has really taken off in the North East, having been embraced by businesses and the public. The heart-breaking Blue Planet II footage, showing the impact of plastics upon marine life, really brought what we are aiming to achieve through Refill into the public consciousness, and there is a real push to make a difference for the sake of our environment.
"It′s not too late for any organisation to sign up for Refill. It′s as simple as e-mailing our team at firstname.lastname@example.org or downloading the Refill app."
Natalie Fee, founder of City to Sea, attended the Northumbrian Water Leadership Conference to inspire water company staff and get them ready to hit the streets.
She said: "It′s been amazing to see the enthusiasm for Refill in the North East, and especially to see the senior managers and Directors rolling up their sleeves, topping up their bottles and signing up Refill stations!
"Refill puts the power to stop plastic pollution in people′s hands, so it′s great to see a leadership conference being used to do just that!"
More information is available about Refill at www.refill.org.uk.