THE nation’s collective hearts broke as viewers of David Attenborough’s award-winning Blue Planet II, which aired last year, watched a pilot whale grieving over her dead calf.

The death, which the documentary linked to plastic pollution, was one of the factors which has prompted heavy discussion about the use of single-use plastic.

Images of sea life caught up in plastic netting and plastic debris washed up on shores around the world have sparked cries for more to be done about the impact of human waste on our oceans and wildlife.

Theresa May has pledged to eradicate avoidable plastic waste in Britain by 2042 as part of a “national plan of action”, but businesses around Tynedale are already taking action to reduce their impact on our oceans.

A campaign called Refill, launched by Water UK earlier this year, hopes to encourage more of us to switch from single-use plastic bottles over to tap water.

It sees businesses sign up to become refill stations, which are places where people can fill up their refillable bottles with tap water free of charge.

Businesses across the district have since signed up to it, including Costa Coffee, which was one of the first to get involved as part of its parent company Whitbread plc.

And now Prudhoe has gained its first participant, with La Piccola cafe in the town becoming a refill station.

Owner of La Piccola, Karen Watson, said: “As a business owner I am trying to encourage a safer and healthier environment, and drinking water is the most healthy way to stay hydrated – especially with the great summer we have had.

“It’s also about reducing plastic waste, with things like bottle tops littering the riverside and having an effect on marine life.

“If we can help the environment that’s a great thing, but it’s also about encouraging other people to help the environment.

“If we can all do it together, it’s going to be a lot easier.”

There are already refill stations nearby at the White Swan in Ovingham and at three locations in Wylam.

In Hexham, there are four, which include chains such as Starbucks, as well as independent businesses, like the Forum cinema.

Refill estimated that between eight and 12 million metric tons of plastic ended up in the oceans each year – more than 80 per cent of it coming from land-based sources.

The main contributor was larger plastic litter, including everyday items such as drinks bottles and other types of plastic packaging, as well as sewage-related debris, such as cotton buds, wet wipes, sanitary waste and microbeads.

The Refill campaign aimed to create a national network of high street retailers, coffee shops, businesses and local authorities where the public could top up their water bottles for free in every major city and town in England by 2021.

And since Northumbrian Water brought the Refill campaign to the North-East in November, it said more than 480 businesses across the region had signed up to become refill stations.

It encouraged businesses taking part to put a sticker in their window alerting passers-by to the fact they were welcome to fill up their bottles for free.

Northumbrian Water’s chief executive Heidi Mottram said: “The BBC’s latest series of Blue Planet II has brought home to everyone the devastating impact that plastic waste has on our environment, oceans and marine life, and the appetite from the public to reduce their plastic waste has grown significantly.

“Business has a responsibility to play a critical role in helping people to tackle this problem at the grass roots, reducing the use of plastics at source wherever possible.

“As an ethical company, Northumbrian Water is committed to leading the charge on this initiative and we’re trying to make it as easy as possible for people to stay hydrated on the move, without adding to the disposable plastics problem.

“We’re encouraging everyone to get behind the Refill campaign, which encourages people to drink our clean, clear and great tasting tap water, and also helps to reduce the amount of plastic waste.”

People can use an app on their phone to find out where their nearest refill point is, or look out for businesses displaying the Refill window stickers.