Avoiding single-use plastic waste in the workplace

Tracey Bamber, Managing Director of Zip Water UK, discusses the role that a drinking water system plays in a commercial building’s sustainability credentials.



n office’s drinking water supply has come a long way since the humble cold water tap and a kettle. Employers have a greater awareness of what their legal requirements are when it comes to drinking water, and employees are far more discerning about the water they drink – you only have to look at the range (and price) of bottled water available to know that drinking water is big business. But how can businesses meet the needs of their staff without compromising their sustainability objectives?

Ensuring staff members are kept hydrated isn’t just a legal requirement, but it is hugely beneficial to productivity, so it’s no wonder that a building’s drinking water system is being considered earlier in a project’s development, and not just as an afterthought.

Single-use plastic bottles have created a global environmental crisis. With just over half of the 38.5 million plastic bottles used every day in the UK being recycled – the rest going to landfill, burned or leaking into oceans and rivers – we are facing a huge problem. Not only have we created a pollution behemoth that is choking wildlife, but there is now evidence of plastic being found in tap, and even bottled, water.

What are the options?

Traditional water coolers which provide water from large plastic bottles and dispense into small plastic cups are contributing to the drastic levels of pollution, but the good news is that there are mains-fed systems which can provide filtered water tasting as good as bottled water.

Helpfully, there are also systems which combine both chilled and boiling water from one outlet, saving space and ensuring drinks can be prepared in an instant.

A big consideration is to ensure the system you specify can handle the demand. There’s no point installing a state-of-the-art filtered water system that can only produce 50 cups an hour in an office of 200! Check with the manufacturer that the system you’re interested in has the capacity to serve your staff. It’s also important to understand peak demand periods so that when there is a surge to make a hot drink on arrival at the office, there is no waiting around for water to be heated.

Stay sustainable

By choosing a system that doesn’t use single-use plastic bottles, you’re playing a key role in reducing the building’s plastic waste. We’d encourage workplaces to become as plastic-free as possible – by providing employees with a refillable bottle they can stay hydrated throughout the day without using any plastic.

Another way to put the environment first is to choose a system that uses minimal energy. Drinking water manufacturers have cleverly designed their systems to heat and cool water efficiently. At Zip, we utilise air-cooling technology which, unlike more traditional water-cooling methods, ensures that not a drop of water is wasted. It’s also worth looking for systems that allow the user to set timed power-off periods, or use an automatic sleep mode that reduces power consumption after a period of inactivity.

Filter out the rubbish

Generally, there are two types of filters used for different aspects of water quality, one is a taste filter and the other is a limescale filter. But, not all filtration is equal. Filtration can either take place at the point where the mains water feeds into the building (can be expensive and often means unnecessary filtered water at washing-up points) or selectively at individual drinking water points.

Filtration is measured in units called microns, and to put into perspective how small microns are, the human eye cannot see anything smaller than 40 microns. For filtration to be as effective as possible, look for systems that have a sub-micron rating. Some systems use filters that have 0.2 microns, which is 25 times better than a standard water filter jug. This type of filter uses a unique wet moulding technology called Fibredyne, which combines carbon and sediment blocks into one cartridge. It not only removes dirt, bacteria and contaminants from the water that other systems may not remove, but also up to 97% of chlorine and 99.9% of microbiological cysts if present. It also ensures that microplastics larger than 0.2 microns are also filtered out, so the water is as clean and pure as possible.

Filtration isn’t only crucial for water purity, but it also has a huge part to play in system longevity. Over 60% of the UK suffers from the effects of hard water, but by ensuring your drinking water system includes excellent filtration, you can prevent limescale build-up. Without a filter, not only will you be prone to additional maintenance costs, but the taste and aesthetics of drinks will be unappetising.

For peace of mind, our filters have been tested and certified by the NSF (health and safety of drinking water) and WRAS (the Water Regulations Advisory Scheme).

Looking good, doing good

A final point to make is that there is a rise in bringing residential design into the workplace – which essentially boils down to that just because something is for an office doesn’t mean it has to be ugly! Manufacturers are more aware of this than ever and are creating products for the workplace that would look just as good in a home environment. You no longer have to choose between functionality and design, it is possible to have both. We have recently launched the HydroTap Design range for the workplace, meaning offices of all sizes can enjoy filtered boiling, chilled and sparkling water from a range of tap styles and finishes. As well as being a design statement, the Zip MicroPurity 0.2 micron filtration technology ensures drinks are pure-tasting, and the system has minimal limescale build-up.

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