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British Water Cooler Association

The British Water Cooler Association (BWCA) was established in 1989 to represent the interests of the water cooler industry in the UK.

The organisation is a Media Partner to ThisWeekinFM, supplying news and comment on hydration and employee wellbeing. The BWCA's mission is to ensure that its Members offer the highest standards of quality, safety and hygiene to the consumer together with an unimpeachable product and service.

The BWCA facilitates the exchange of technical, scientific and regulatory information between Industry Members and related bodies and serves as the authoritative source of information (other than statistical) concerning the water cooler industry.

For continued membership and accreditation, Members must adhere to strict Bylaws, Codes of Practice and the Code of Advertising and Conduct and are audited for compliance annually by 3rd party inspection organisations.


The BWCA has close and ongoing relationships with key national and local government departments and agencies including the FSA, DEFRA, the Environment Agency, Trading Standards and Environmental Health Departments.


At a European level, the BWCA is a Member of the European Bottled Watercooler Association (EBWA). The BWCA takes a key executive role in the activities of EBWA which represents the interests of several hundred companies in the water cooler industry throughout Western and Eastern Europe in relation to EU directives and regulations.

Just a Drop

The British Water Cooler Association has raised nearly £70,000 for Just a Drop during just over 3 years of support for the charity.

The BWCA effect, however, goes much wider than simply fund-raising efforts via the Association. As a result of the charitable programme which forms one of the platforms of the BWCA's 5 for 5 Sustainability Pledge, numerous companies have chosen to support the charity in their own right. This has raised an additional £17,642 bringing the total raised by the sector (including direct company donations) to an impressive £69,116.

Over 1,000 people living in difficult conditions in Africa with no access to clean, safe water have benefited from boreholes funded directly by the BWCA.

Phillipa Atkinson-Clow, General Manager of BWCA, said: "The ripple effect our Association's support has created has encouraged and inspired many companies to join with us in fund-raising for this good cause.  This, together with our direct support, is making a huge impact."

In the past year, two more BWCA-funded projects were completed in Kutemwa and Chibukisho villages, Zambia. By the end of 2019, there will be 5 BWCA-funded boreholes in total. Atkinson-Clow added: "It is good to be able to say that our 5 for 5 Pledge has helped transform the lives in 5 villages."

Why Water Matters – BWCA Launches Two New Hydration Fact Sheets

The British Water Cooler Association has launched two new hydration fact sheets in its series called 'Why Water Matters'.

The sector-specific guidance notes are for those in the dental and retail sectors, both identified by the Association’s members as being areas where healthy hydration and sustainability are of particular interest.

The launch of the latest titles brings the total in the series to 8.

They describe ‘Why Water Matters’ for:

  • Dental Practices.

  • Retailers.

  • Children.

  • Construction Workers.

  • Food Service And Catering Workers.

  • Hotels.

  • Public Sector Workers.

  • Salons & Spas.

These publications provide information of the hydration benefits offered by water coolers and remind building managers that the BWCA is the leading Association representing those who supply and distribute water coolers and related products and services.

All the documents provide a link to the website which enables potential clients to choose an accredited BWCA company.

Healthy hydration

The hydration fact sheets describe the importance of promoting healthy hydration and give advice on choosing the correct coolers for particular needs and locations.


The dental fact sheet points to the value of hydrating patients before appointments and the way in which the practice can help set an example, especially for families with children.


The retail fact sheet reminds retailers that offering simple hospitality in the form of a refreshing drink can help boost dwell-time and encourage refilling of reusable water bottles to demonstrate the store’s sustainability ambitions.

Get yours now

Finally, each fact sheet includes is a simple visual hydration chart helping people to check whether they are correctly hydrated.

The guidance is available direct from BWCA or via BWCA Members.

If you would like to request copies of the fact sheets, email specifying in the subject box the title of the Fact Sheet(s) you require.

Reuse and Recycling - Why The Water Cooler Sector Welcomes The Plastic Tax

In his 2018 Budget, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond,  announced proposals for a  new tax on the manufacture and import of plastic packaging that contains less than 30 per cent recycled plastic.

For the water cooler industry, one of the greenest sectors there is, this is welcome news. Water coolers provide convenient and healthy hydration (so are good for the body) with a minimal environmental impact because they are either plumbed in and using mains water or they are using containers that are used time and time again and, once they reach the end of their life, are recycled.

Water coolers are the sustainable drinks choice for businesses, homes and public places. Having delicious, cooled water readily to hand encourages water consumption, which is good for everyone’s health and well-being. Providing that water via a cooler rather than through single-use bottles is a highly sustainable option, as on average each water cooler bottle can be re-used 40-50 times.

Once they reach the end of their life, water cooler bottles are withdrawn from service and recycled. A typical bottle scrappage rate will be around 2 per cent.  A wide variety of products can be then made from the recycled material. Rarely are bottles simply ditched as with single use bottles due to a substantial deposit. No-one As a result, these containers are not thrown in the sea or into the general waste bin.


Most water cooler bottles are polycarbonate, but newer versions may be made of PET with additives to improve durability and clarity.  Take-up of these new style bottles has been slow and the majority of the 313million litres of water sold in a year (Source Zenith Global 2017) are packed in polycarbonate.

Although less versatile than some forms of plastic, polycarbonate can be recycled into a wide variety of products (see ‘Recycling Bottles’ below). Polycarbonate tends to be the material of choice for water cooler bottles because of its high strength and durability, needed to withstand the weight of 18.9 litres of water and the high temperatures used in the wash process.

Any material used for packaging water must be safe for food use and tested to ensure that no harmful chemicals will migrate into the water during storage.  This is a legal requirement (Commission regulation (EU) No.10 /2011 on plastic materials and articles intended to come into contact with food; (EU) No.2023/2006, & No.1935/2004).

There are typically 790 gms of material in an 18.9 litre water cooler bottle (this bottle size originating in the US as a 5 gallon bottle). Other bottle sizes for coolers make up a relatively small volume of the market. There will have been approximately 16.5million bottles of water packaged for coolers last year (2017) (based on 313million litres in total). This means that an estimated 13,000 tonnes of polycarbonate packaging is in circulation at any one time.


In 2010, The Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) study comparing single trip versus reusable bottles concluded that the average 18.9 litre bottle would make 40-50 trips during its lifetime.  Factors affecting this were:

  • Return rates.

  • Design specification.

  • Frequency of product shipments.

  • Time taken to return to point of filling from the point of customer usage.

  • Shelf life of the product in the market.

  • Losses due to theft or damage.

  • Inspection and cleaning activities.

Recycling bottles

Before loading onto the production line, every bottle is manually or machine inspected and damaged bottles rejected. Obvious cracks and holes are spotted by line operatives, whilst difficult-to-detect pin-holes and hairline cracks may be picked up by an in-line pressure tester.

As product quality is paramount, heavily soiled bottles are also discarded, along with any that show ’greening’ due to the growth of algae.  Such bottles cannot be properly cleaned without great difficulty.

These discarded bottles are separated from the bottle stock, holed or marked to prevent re-use, and crushed into bales ready for collection. Industry benchmarking has identified that an average wastage figure of 2 per cent of returned bottles are recycled at each inspection – but ultimately all bottles are recycled.

Although polycarbonate bottles are fully recyclable, the material loses strength in the recycling process so only a small percentage can be used in the manufacture of new bottles. However there are numerous other uses for recycled polycarbonate, including:

  • Head lamp lenses.

  • Dashboards.

  • Electronic component housing.

  • Mobile phones.

  • Battery boxes.

  • CDs and DVDs.

  • Traffic Lights.


Phillipa Atkinson-Clow, General Manager of the British Water Cooler Association said: “The BWCA has a sustainability programme which we called the ‘5 for 5 Pledge’. This encourages members to further improve the sector’s already excellent sustainability record and to share experience with other members and business more widely. It’s helping by enabling members to share between them and with other companies their examples of good practice; to improve their businesses not just environmentally but in terms of water management and community support too, for instance; and by demonstrating what a sustainable sector this is.”

For further information and case studies on the ways in which BWCA Members approach sustainability - Click Here

And - Click Here


Choosing a Water Cooler

If you procure soft services including water for the buildings you serve, here are our four tips for making the best choices.

Tip 1

Water coolers are the sustainable choice

Water coolers are highly sustainable and that applies to bottled water coolers as well as mains fed coolers. Bottles are collected, cleansed and reused many times over whilst main fed coolers of course use water from the mains.

Tip 2

Remember, not all water coolers are equal

Whichever style of water cooler you choose, make sure of one thing. Choose a supplier that is a Member of the British Water Cooler Association (BWCA) which  is the leading trade body ensuring top standards of safety and hygiene. BWCA Members must adhere to strict Codes of Practice and best conduct and are independently audited annually. By dealing with a BWCA Member you are getting the best. To find a BWCA member company - Click Here

Tip 3

Choosing the type of cooler

Whether you choose a mains fed or bottled water cooler depends on your building’s needs.

Points for Bottled Water Coolers to consider are:

  • Do you have space to store bottles?

  • Are staff willing and able to lift the bottles?

  • If storing bottles, is the storage area away from direct sunlight, clean, dry and devoid of chemicals?

  • Is it important to you to have natural or spring water which some bottled water cooler providers can offer?

  • Is there a relatively small number of people using the cooler or someone readily able to keep an eye on the need for replacement?

  • Is access easy for delivery and collection of bottles?

  • Points for Main-fed Coolers - also known as Plumbed in units - to consider are:

  • Do you have plumbing at the point where you need the cooler?

  • Are the building users happy to have the cooler in a fixed spot with no flexibility to move it on a frequent basis?

  • Is it important that you don’t have to store and handle bottles of water?

  • Are you seeking a lower cost option? POU coolers are usually cheaper to run?

Tip 4

Opt for a one-stop-shop when making your selection.

If procurement is on your list this year, make a date to visit the major water cooler trade show – the British Water Cooler Association Trade Show on the afternoon of Thursday 8 March in Nottingham for a one-stop-shop showing the best and latest water cooler technology from around the world. Free to attend and with free parking and refreshments, this is a great means of getting information (plus a glass of water or a cuppa) quickly and efficiently without the usual drudgery of visiting large general purpose trade shows.

For details visit

The Power Of Association

Corporate social responsibility programmes can make a real difference - to the community, to charities, to the companies who operate such schemes and to their workforce. Of course the bigger the company, invariably the bigger the impact.

For smaller companies, such activities  can seem to be out of reach. That’s where the ‘power of association’ comes in.

A fine example is the work by the British Water Cooler Association (BWCA), the most powerful group in its sector, which has shown how to harness the goodwill that exists amongst its members, both large and small. Companies that may not manage to have much fund-raising clout alone have been able to do a massive amount of good as part of a Trade Association.

The BWCA launched its first industry-wide CSR programme just two years ago. Having reviewed the options and set some simple criteria, the Association decided to support the charity Just a Drop which brings sustainable water sources to people for whom clean water and sanitation was a luxury not a necessity.

In that short period of time, this modest-sized industry has harnessed enough money to fund two new boreholes in Africa, transforming the lives of two villages and with funding already in place to create additional boreholes. The companies concerned could not have achieved this alone.

Apart from the benefit to the villagers who were previously without safe water and for whom water-borne disease was rife, there have been other benefits closer to home. Member companies have been able to build team-building exercises around fund-raising activities plus there have been valuable publicity for those companies taking part. In addition, the charity auction and fun fund-raising activities staged at the Association’s annual conference and trade show in two successive years has created opportunities for bonding between companies that, outside that forum, are often in keen  competition.

Says Phillipa Atkinson-Clow, General Manager of the BWCA: “Our Members are entrepreneurial and busy but they also love to help those less fortunate, as do many people across industry. By harnessing their generosity through the Trade Association, we’ve been able to create an effect that is greater than the sum of the parts. It’s been fascinating to see just what the ‘power of association’ has been and we plan to do more of the same for a good cause.”