Refilling at Bristol Balloon Fiesta!

Once more, Bristol Water popped up their pop-up water bar, in conjunction with Refill Bristol.

Meaning it wasn’t just balloons flying high at Bristol Balloon Fiesta!  The water bar was hugely popular, with people refilling non stop.

The balloon fiesta also gave me a great excuse to get my camera out, as you can see through the post, I love balloons!

Around 10,000 people gulped down 6,000 litres of free tap water throughout the four-day fiesta!

This was the third time I’d worked the water bar this Summer as part of my role with City to Sea (which I’ve yet to blog about…) and again, it was brilliant!!

 We happily refilled people’s water bottles all weekend.

Preventing literally 1000s of single use plastic bottles heading into the waste stream!

As well as refilling and keeping people (& dogs!) hydrated, we brought along ideas from our Festival of Nature stand, where we’d created fun and unique activities to engage with the general public.

Many who I spoke to over the course of this weekend were still unaware of plastic pollution in our oceans. It was fantastic to be able to let them know about the issue, while at the same time providing a solution there and then.

People appreciated their free refill even more when they learned why we’re doing it!

It wasn’t all work… I made the most of the opportunity to experience the excitement of Bristol Balloon Fiesta!

I tested the route by bike on the Thursday evening for the night glow. Which happened to be a very windy evening! It was awesome! The balloons are held on the ground, then they all light up in time with music. The wind added to the drama as the balloons swayed and moved into each other….

The wind meant the balloons didn’t take off until the Saturday evening. I loved it so much I set my alarm for the Sunday dawn assent.

I packed my camera and feeling pretty pleased with myself  – set of on my bike when it was still dark! Once I got there I realised I wasn’t alone – 100s had got up early, many with kids and full on picnics and BBQs already on the go when I arrived!!

It was the only dawn assent of the festival. It was special… with over 120 balloons leaving from Ashton Court, the largest balloon fiesta in Europe, it really is a sight to behold. 

With such a huge crowd it was perfect for Refill Bristol to be there. Our aim at City to Sea is to stem the flow of plastic pollution from source – in a fun and engaging way. And judging by the constant flow of people who refilled – we’re succeeding!

Here are some stats from Bristol Water: From the people surveyed a massive 87% said they drink tap water at home, but only about 50% came to the festival prepared with a reusable bottle and most did not expect to be able to refill it. Of those that did refill only 38% had a reusable bottle the rest had single use plastics bottles that they had either brought on site or had with them.

What if the pop up water bar had not been there?  Single use plastic water bottles would have piled high. The waste from the event was the usual as you can see. Even with the pop up water bar and recycling bins, there was still shit loads of rubbish!

The event was partnered with  Bristol Waste, and yes they could have supplied more bins. But that’s not the solution, the planet can not cope with more bins. The ones we have need to have less in them. A Lot Less!

It felt to me the emphasis was on “recycling” rather than reducing. As is so often the case.

This is what I said about it, as quoted on Bristol Water’s website from the press release:

“The aim for us at these events has been to get people to reduce the amount of plastic waste they produce. Most people have heard the phase ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ but for some reason the recycle element has made its way to the front. The thing we should be concentrating on is reducing the amount of waste, and this is the message we are trying to get across, and what we’re providing with the water bar.” said Michelle Cassar, Creative Director for City to Sea.

She added “Speaking to people at the Balloon Fiesta it was obvious there is a demand for refill station like Bristol Water’s water bar”. 

I’ve shown this post to Eric at Bristol Waste before I published it, as I wanted them to be aware of it, and I’m interested what they say. I don’t want this post to come across as “pointing the finger” and blaming someone else. It isn’t.

We have to, and are – working together. When it comes to plastic pollution, we need all hands on deck!

I’m still waiting to hear from him to their thoughts…

Thankfully though – Refill Bristol was there!

Debbie from Yate, who kept coming back to refill, said “It is such a good idea because not only do you save the plastic waste but you also save loads of money”.

Ian visiting from South Wales added “I am amazed that by 2050 there could be more plastic in the sea than fish, we really need to do all we can to reduce our plastic waste”.

The pop up bar, like the balloons, doesn’t just pop up by magic!  Oh no… there are people working hard to get it to places, refill it, check it’s all safe for people to drink, and be there to refill from early till late. During the course of this weekend, the bowser was filled three times, and the technicians were on call 24/7 just in case. And then there’s the cleaning of the bar… which Rob’s a dab hand at!

It really is team work!

 “We at Bristol Water strongly believe everyone In Bristol and the surrounding areas should be working together to reduce the amount of plastic we use, and have shown our support to this fantastic City to Sea project.

There are also loads of other benefits that come along with refilling whilst at events such as the Balloon Fiesta. You stay hydrated and that was certainly needed over this weekend, but you also save loads of money. The Water Bar will be out and about next summer across the area as well”  said Alison Jennings, Communications Manager at Bristol Water.

As well as drinking I had to eat! I’d taken my stylish Elephant Box along, and enjoyed my packed lunches, while drinking from my stainless steel water bottle from Refill Bristol. And a cutlery set and case I picked up at a charity shop.

That’s a PALL packed lunch!

I hear that going up in a balloon is easy, fun and exciting. While coming down is unpredictable and can be a bumpy ride.

The same could be said for single use plastics.

Single use plastics make life in the here and now easy: buy it, use it, throw it in a box. It’s been exciting for us to lead such convenient lives. It’s sold to us as a lifestyle, packaging products – or in this case water – promising to make our lives more fulfilled and fun.

Plastic pollution is taking longer for us to feel the full extent than a bump back to earth after a balloon ride, but the unpredictable bump of plastic pollution will affect each and every one of us. Especially the little people. With plastic in our oceans spiralling out of control, with one report after another of what this is doing to our health, how there’ll be more plastic in the oceans than fish – if we continue at our current consumption – when my young nieces are only in their early 30s.

Is this bumpy ride one we really want to take a chance on?

A balloon pilot is experienced and knows how to soften the fall. There is no one piloting the rampant over use of single use bottled water. It is up to us to reduce.

We already know what to do. It’s a case of doing it. One bottle at a time. Refuse. Reduce. REFILL!

It’s time to wave good buy to single use plastic water bottles…


Thank you Bristol Water and Refill Bristol for making it possible to do so at Bristol Balloon Fiesta!

Not sure what to refill? A stainless steel bottle is the option I go for.

Light (apart from the water of course) and safe to drink from. They are also rather stylish I’m sure you’ll agree… I have no end of compliments. You can purchase one here if you fancy….

Bristol Water have confirmed: The pop up water bar will pop up in Summer 2017!!

So until then…. carry on refilling.

Remember: Every refusal adds up! 


All photography is by myself and is under the copyright of:  Cassar Photography. Please get in touch if you’d like to use any images.



Switch the Stick

Have you asked UK retailers yet to switch their cotton bud sticks from plastic to paper?  If not, here’s your chance! You can add your voice to the petition here;  Switch the Stick. The retailers are listening (I have inside information!), this campaign we can win!


Plastic Cotton buds are daft. Yes, people shouldn’t be putting them down the loo, but they do – in there millions!!  These millions make their merry way down the sewage system, into to the rivers, out to the oceans, into fish and other marine life, and the chemicals make their way into – you guessed it – fish eaters. Mmmmm!

This is asking for your help. Please can you add your voice here, Switch the Stick and push the petition over the 6,000 mark.

To help prevent marine plastic pollution at source!

Paper stem ones may still head down the toilet, but they won’t have the same damaging effect.  This switch also give retailers the chance to label their products; “don’t flush” so people can understand where stuff goes when it is.

Which could help stop everything other than poo, pee and paper heading down the loo.

Also it gives retailers the chance to create plastic free packaging for them from the off. Joining all the dots in one go! (or if not, a lot less!)  Such as these.

People may not try and squeeze boxes down the toilet! But they’re still plastic, that at best can be “recycled” (down-cycled when it comes to plastic) when they don’t need to be made of plastic in the first place.

Some already have agreed to, #switchthestick. Waitrose being one of the supermarkets, and the leading brand Johnson and Johnson. Which is fantastic news! It’s not by chance though, this moves comes after two years of pressure from the charity Fidra, an environmental charity based in Scotland. Their dedicated site is, The Cotton Bud Project which is full of information and alternatives.

City to Sea have turned up the heat, creating a public facing campaign with nearly 6,000 signatures on the petition in it’s first month!

 Why more signatures? 

Because the retailers are already watching and listening, they actually are! Three more committed in a meeting since the petition, we’re just waiting on their press releases. Exciting stuff! But there are more retailers to go…

And because very very soon 38 Degrees the leading campaign group in the UK are going to run it as a, ‘Campaigns by You”. They have over two half millions followers!  It would be incredible if it reaches all of them…

By adding your voice this could reach people, many who may of never heard of plastic pollution, and get the remaining retailers on board! 

Cotton buds make up over 60% of all sewage related beach litter (MCS, 2015). This switch could massively reduce these figures. How amazing would that be. “I was part of that!” – you’ll be able to tell your friends in the future!

Let’s make “Fish & Sticks” a thing of the past!

Switch the Stick!


Remember, it’s not just every refusal, but also every signature that adds up.

Thanks for signing and sharing! 


Fish & Sticks and Dirty Sticks photography by Cassar Photography