We are shining a spotlight on the passionate individuals who are leading the way with their commitment to reducing waste – our Local Sustainability Champions. We caught up with Nigel Goulding from Rochdale Borough Council to find out how he is helping push forward the refill revolution across the area…

Tell us aims for refill in Rochdale.

My remit for this project was straightforward: to get as many public buildings on the Refill App as I knew. We were already providing free water top-ups, but I needed them to be on the Refill App so that residents and visitors could easily find their nearest refill location.

My approach was to spend time going through all our public buildings, warm spaces and community centres, contacting them to explain the Refill App and the benefits it provides for our local residents as well as the environment. I also wanted to expand on the number of public buildings and contacted the council’s public health team and wider departments, plus Your Trust who manage the borough’s leisure centres and sports facilities, so they could also promote Refill.

The challenges were not significant but more around notifying residents through posters and stickers to promote the Refill building to passers-by. In my experience during a Refill staff walk I did not see posters or stickers on windows, so I would like stickers on all public building windows so people know the building offers water refills.

How did Rochdale first get involved in refill?

We have always promoted free water refills in the borough and have encouraged libraries, businesses and community centres to display a Rochdale Borough Council sticker, produced by our public health team. But it was only when I attended a meeting of other local councils and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority earlier in the year that I found out Rochdale had low numbers on the Refill app – so I decided to act.

Although not a great challenge, it was more of using my contacts within the borough and persuading the recipients to sign up to the app. The approach was more of explaining the benefits to not only the building that registers but also to the residents of the borough. They can access free refills and reduce single-use plastic bottles.

I also go into schools across the borough to promote reducing single-use plastic water bottles and give out water bottles to pupils and residents. A part of my lesson is looking at where plastic comes from and how many single-use plastic water bottles we use each year. This is also to promote healthy living alongside our public health programme and to have readily available water top-up stations to strengthen reducing plastic and leading a healthy lifestyle.

We also run regular school competitions, with winners’ posters being displayed on our wagons and vehicles.

We have also produced a poster for staff. With warm weather upon us and the importance of ensuring staff stay hydrated while out in the borough, we have placed posters around the building about the Refill app – all staff can scan the QR code to find the nearest building that offers free water refills. All local libraries and some community centres are more than happy for council staff to call in and get a top-up of water throughout the day. Supervisors will also put the poster up in each waste and recycling wagon/ street vehicle so staff are aware of the app and have easy access to water top-ups.

What do you think refill offers Greater Manchester?

The more businesses and public buildings that sign up to the Refill app the more residents will be in walking distance to a free water top-up. This will increase our Refill numbers in the borough and put Rochdale on the map as a place that is significantly helping in the reduction of single-use plastic water bottles and coffee cups.

Promoting the app also strengthens our recycling offer in the borough and reinforces our Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Repurpose messages, along with offering further ways for residents to connect to places to eat, drink, and shop with less waste.

Finally, I also led a Refill and Recharge council staff walks around Rochdale town centre on the 19 June 2024 to promote the app and drop in on a few places offering water refills.

Why do you think it’s important more people get involved with refill?

The more that people get involved in promoting the Refill app, the more we will see a reduction in single-use plastic bottles. It shows that the businesses and local buildings are working towards a more eco-friendly business community within the borough. Also, those buildings that offer free refills may see an increase in footfall and attract new visitors to their venue. Businesses can find out more about refill and pledging to make themselves more eco-friendly here.

If time and resources weren’t an issue, how would you like to see your project expanded on?

I would like to see most public buildings and businesses in the borough offer free refills. Also, in an ideal world, I would like to see Refill water coolers in all schools. I go into a lot of schools and very few have water cooler fountains. Water should be readily accessible for all.

Rochdale has an excellent travel network, with significant footfall from the bus and tram stations to our town centre. So having either outdoor or indoor water fountains installed in town centres and bus stations would be ideal. People will know these are available and will reduce their plastic consumption as well saving money.

How can people get involved?

People can contact me at nigel.goulding@rochdale.gov.uk, or you can go directly to the refill website to add your workplace or business. I also offer recycling lessons to schools across the borough of Rochdale, where there is a focus on reducing waste – find out more here.

Want to find out more about refill across Greater Manchester? Visit our refill webpage here!

GM Green City Logo