An app mapping water fountains and free refill stations across the country has been launched in the latest drive to stop people buying sugary drinks and plastic bottles.

Refill NZ is behind the technology after experiencing huge growth since it was first trialled in Wellington little more than a year ago.

Bars, restaurants and cafes that sign up to the initiative offer to fill water bottles for free, even if the person is not a paying customer- the idea being to remove any feeling of awkwardness in asking a business for tap water with no strings attached.

There are more than 1200 refill and water fountain sites on the app's map, which also provides directions on how to reach them.

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Prior to the map there wasn't an electronic listing for water fountains in centres like Auckland and Christchurch, Refill NZ founder Jill Ford said.

Refill NZ founder Jill Ford. Photo / Supplied.
Refill NZ founder Jill Ford. Photo / Supplied.

Within a couple of weeks of Refill NZ going live Ford was fielding interest from health organisations, councils and tourism operators.

More recently, Ford has secured funding to get water stations into 24 libraries across the Wellington region.

"It's very exciting but it's ended up being a full-time job that you're not paid for," she said.

Ford founded Refill NZ after working with City to Sea in the UK, and seeing plastic littering other parts of the world like when she went snorkelling among plastic bottles in the Red Sea and walked plastic-covered beaches in Cambodia.

New Zealanders each use an average of 168 plastic bottles annually, but only a third of them are recycled, leaving around 526 million bottles that are thrown away - often ending up in landfill and the sea.

Wai Auckland started the year with a concerted push for more businesses to sign up to the initiative, with an aim to have 1000 stations registered by mid-2021.

Auckland Council, a Wai Auckland partner, has registered more than 50 of its facilities, including pools, leisure centres and selected libraries and community centres.

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Council Waste Solutions general manager Parul Sood said backing Refill NZ would support the city's goal of achieving zero waste to landfill by 2040.

"It's easy to forget that bottled water didn't even exist in New Zealand until the late 1990s. We're showing how easy it can be to return to what we once did - carrying a reusable bottle and filling up from the tap, on the go."

In Wellington, Black Coffee owner Carmel Levy said filling up bottles was never an inconvenience to staff.

"If we go into a place and ask them to fill up our drink bottles we would expect them to say yes too."

In the heart of Newtown, people already came in just to use their bathroom, she said.

"I don't think you should ever deny anyone the toilet, that's torture, if someone's got to go they've got to go, it's there and it's a community space, and water and other activities like that should be offered in any public or commercial business."