London Mayor Seeks Revival of Public Drinking Fountains
LONDON — It is a worldwide emblem of urban life, as ubiquitous as the clutched paper cup of latte or the sight of a pedestrian in rapt communication with the screen of a smartphone.
It is the plastic bottle of water, poking from a backpack or grasped in a gloved hand, stacked on the refrigerated shelves of supermarkets, or discarded in the gutter.
There was a time when skeptical old-timers derided bottled water as little more than a marketer’s trick to lure consumers into paying for a liquid that should cost next to nothing.
And, equally, there were many people who asked where else they would find water when public drinking fountains had all but disappeared.
London mayors generally seek to establish a distinctive legacy.
Apart from a degree of buffoonery, Mr. Khan’s predecessor, Boris Johnson, who is now Britain’s foreign secretary, made a name in transport, introducing the Boris Bus, a distinctive update on the traditional double-decker, and the Boris Bike, a bicycle for hire on the streets of the capital.
Mr. Khan, by contrast, seems to be focusing on the environment, introducing measures intended to reduce air pollution and, now, its surfeit of plastic.
But it may be some time before the city sprouts new drinking fountains.
Globally, plastic bottles have become an environmentalist’s nightmare, with some reports suggesting that about half of the billions of bottles in circulation are not recycled.
In 2008, Mr. Johnson, the former mayor, announced plans for a great expansion of public drinking fountains but, Mr. Khan’s office said on Monday, “several proposals for providing water fountains and bottle-refill stations were explored but there were concerns over high installation costs.” However, there may be other factors, such as pressure from interest groups to protect retailers at train stations, for instance, who profit by selling bottled water and would not welcome the competition from free water fountains, The Guardian said.