The utility firm claims its new plastics policy is the first of its kind for a water company.
The new policy includes a commitment to carrying out an audit of its plastic use and set targets for reduction, along with a promise to cut out single use plastics in its offices and operations, wherever possible.
The company said it will also help promote water bottle refill schemes across the region and expanding its ‘Unflushables’ campaign to highlight the environmental impact caused by plastic waste, such as wet wipes and cotton buds, in the sewerage system.
The plastics policy also commits Southern Water to fund research and pilot projects for removing plastic waste, including plastic microfibres, from the water it abstracts from the environment, from the treated wastewater it returns to the environment and from the bioresources that it recycles to agricultural land
In addition, the company will support and encourage employee and community initiatives to remove plastic waste and litter from the environment and work in partnership with research bodies, universities, suppliers, and other stakeholders.
The company is funding academic studies into microplastics with Southampton University. It has also set up an innovation hub with the University of Portsmouth at its Petersfield wastewater treatment works where innovative treatment techniques, including the removal of microplastics, are being explored.
In January, Environment Journal reported that the trade body Water UK is to work with the Refill campaign to expand its programme and ensure people will be able to top up their water bottles for free in every major city and town in England by 2021.
‘Plastic is a durable, flexible and long-lasting material that is well-suited to long-term uses such as water pipes for example,’ said Southern Water’s chief executive, Ian McAuley.
‘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,’ he added.
‘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,’ added Mr McAuley.