Anglian Water claims to be the first water company globally to look beyond its own business impact as it has committed to eradicate plastic waste in the East of England by 2030.
The ambitious pledge will tackle all plastic waste which is not reusable, recyclable or compostable as Anglian plans to “lead the whole region it serves and the environment it protects”.
It will bring together a taskforce of big businesses, manufacturers, retailers and suppliers from across the region to tackle “problem plastics” across their whole life-cycle, from manufacture to disposal.
Research conducted by Anglian Water revealed its customers believe the water company has a “vital role” to play in leading and influencing others across the region on a plastic-free journey.
Peter Simpson, chief executive of Anglian Water, said: “We’ve all seen the huge impact single-use plastics are having on our environment. We know a truckload of plastic is entering our oceans every minute, with rivers and watercourses acting as the highways for plastic waste pollution out to sea.
“We already have a proven track record of standing against plastic wastefulness. Our successful RiverCare and BeachCare programme, run in partnership with Keep Britain Tidy sees volunteers from across the region coming together to rid their local rivers and beaches from litter and plastics. Over the past year 45 groups have volunteered over 21,000 hours, collecting more than 50 tonnes of litter, much of it plastic from our rivers and beaches.”
Simpson added: “The scope of this taskforce goes beyond what people might traditionally think of as being the responsibility of a water company, but it’s important to our customers and the right thing to do.
“So, we want to trial things like working with clothes manufacturers on how we might be able to design better materials that don’t shed plastic fibres, or with white goods companies about developing better filters on washing machines that capture plastic particles from our clothes.
“The group will even look at finding new ways of reusing discarded plastics or those filtered from the water treatment processes to make them into a valuable commodity once again.
“Saying it’s difficult is not good enough and we can’t do this alone, which is why we want to bring the right people together to better understand and tackle the problem from beginning to end.”
Anglian Water launched its pledge against plastics to coincide with World Oceans Day on 8 June. The water company which serves a 10th of the UK population has previously rolled out free water refill schemes with City to Sea in towns and cities.
Natalie Fee, founder, City to Sea, said: “It’s fantastic to see a water company showing this kind of initiative – we need businesses to look beyond their bottom line if we’re going to solve plastic pollution and Anglian Water is doing just that.
“We’ve worked with Anglian Water now for three years as a partner on our campaigns, successfully calling on all UK supermarkets to stop making cotton buds out of plastic and ‘Switch the Stick’ to paper; on our ‘Unflushables’ campaign which reached over nine million people with the message to only flush ‘pee, paper and poo’ and on our Refill campaign – saving hundreds of thousands of plastic bottles by connecting people to taps on the go.”