Water company to take on fight to cut plastic waste

Southern Water has pledged to reduce plastic waste
Southern Water has pledged to reduce plastic waste
Bury Crescent, in Gosport. Picture: Google Street View

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A WATER company has pledged to reduce plastic waste ‘wherever possible’ to fight the oncoming tide of single-use plastic problems.

Southern Water has launched a new plastics policy that not only sets targets for plastic waste reduction, but also works with suppliers to increase recycling rates and fund academic studies into the removal and recycling of plastic waste.

The firm claims that this is the first policy of its kind to be implemented by a water company.

The initiative ties in with The News’ campaign The Last Straw, which looks to get companies in the region to rethink their use of plastic.

Treating more than 700m litres of water each day, Southern Water frequently comes across waste items such as cotton buds and wet wipes.

Last year, the company removed almost 9,000 tons of such material at its sites across the region.

As well as these large items, wastewater also contains plastic microfibres from clothing and tiny particles of plastic – Southern Water is exploring techniques for removing these and finding new ways of recycling and reusing them.

The company is also funding academic studies into microplastics at Southampton University and has set up an innovation hub with the University of Portsmouth where innovative treatment techniques, including the removal of microplastics, are being explored.

Southern Water’s CEO Ian McAulay said: ‘Plastic is a durable, flexible and long-lasting material that is well-suited to long-term uses such as water pipes for example.

‘The problem is that society has increasingly become reliant on single-use plastics, which aren’t managed and recycled properly and that needs to change quickly.

‘Our plastics policy demonstrates our commitment to reducing plastic waste in our offices and operations and encouraging our customers to make some simple changes in their lives too.

‘Every business has a responsibility to minimise its reliance on single-use plastics, but, as a water company, we also have a unique opportunity at our treatment works to intervene and prevent plastics from entering the environment.

‘The policy is the first step in a long and potentially complex journey for us but we’re proud to take a leading role in helping tackle this global issue.’