PUBLIC water fountains could be installed in Oxford city centre as part of a battle to reduce the amount of plastic thrown away every day.

Campaign group Refill Oxford, which has built up a network of 170 businesses happy to give out free tap water, now wants to raise funds to install new fountains in busy areas.

It comes after the Government confirmed plans to ban some plastic items, including straws, from sale or use in England from next April.

Scheme creator Georgina Matthews welcomed the move but said it didn’t address the main problem; the country’s excessive use of plastic bottles.

She added: “It is a step in the right direction but only addresses a fraction of the plastics problem.

“We need to cut back on the pointless use of plastics across the board.

“Plastic bottles and crisp packets are the two biggest culprits. We are using more than 7 billion bottles every year – that’s 600 every 10 minutes in Oxford – and it’s all pointless given we have amazingly good quality tap water.”

Refill launched in Oxford in January, inspired by a similar scheme in Bristol, and now boasts a huge network of cafes, bars, restaurants, museums and other businesses where passers-by can fill up for free.

Plans for the water fountains are in their early stages with sites that would be interested in hosting one being asked to come forward.

Ms Matthews is also hoping local businesses might want to get involved and sponsor a fountain.

She said: “The best thing would be if we can get them in some of the hotspots in the city centre where there are lots of people, especially tourists.

“I think this group is the biggest influx of people into Oxford who are buying water bottles. Residents are more likely to leave home with their own.

“There are a number of places where we would like to get them set up but there’s still a lot of work to do.”

There has been a surge in interest in cutting back on single-use plastics in recent years, spurred on, in part, by David Attenborough’s Blue Planet documentaries which showed the extent of plastics pollution in the world’s oceans.

Ms Matthews said she has noticed a distinct ‘Attenborough effect’ when developing the scheme and describes businesses being ‘much more responsive’ after the programme aired.

She’s now hoping it results in a noticeable drop in the use of plastics, particularly over the hotter summer months when people are more likely to want to buy drinks.

She said: “I think there is a real willingness to change. I don’t think we should have to have legislation but that will make things quicker.

“We need suppliers to cut down and I know the city council is doing a lot of work in this area.

“There’s also a lot of people coming up with new products and maybe one day we’ll see a amazing bio-degradable bottle that people can buy.

“Hopefully we can stop pointless plastics for good.”