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Beating plastic on World Environment Day

05 Jun 2018

Hunter Water is strengthening our commitment to reduce plastic pollution, in line with the celebration of the UN’s World Environment Day, on June 5th.

According to the UN, there is an urgent need to reduce plastic pollution. Worldwide, up to 5 trillion plastic bags are used each year, contributing to 13 million tonnes of plastic leaking into the ocean and the death of 100,000 marine animals every year.

The wastewater system in the greater Newcastle area is affected, too. Plastic can clog the wastewater network and form clusters that contribute to the formation of ‘fatbergs’, obstructing pipes and causing wastewater overflows.

Microplastics and microfibres are present in daily-use personal care and cosmetic products – including shampoos and facial scrubs – and shed from synthetic materials like polyester in clothing. They are rinsed directly down household drains and end up at wastewater treatment plants. Hunter Water has contributed $45,000 towards a wastewater study being jointly funded by the University of Newcastle and led by Dr Thava Palanisami, that will help develop ways to manage and treat microplastics in wastewater before they reach waterways, such as rivers and the ocean.

Hunter Water is also participating in the Newcastle-born Plastic Police®, a closed-loop recycling program for soft plastics being piloted in the Hunter. The idea is to reduce the amount of soft plastic waste entering the oceans and landfill by collecting and melting down plastic bags and wrappers to make new products that can be bought back by Hunter Water. So far this year Hunter Water has recycled more than 300 kg of soft plastics, enough to make several sets of picnic tables and chairs.

Hunter Water’s Program Director for Sustainable Wastewater, David Derkenne, highlighted the importance of these environmental initiatives: “Keeping plastics and microplastics out of our wastewater addresses this emerging environmental contamination issue and protects the environment. It also brings benefits by maximising opportunities to recycle effluent and produce biosolids destined for reuse in an environmentally friendly way as fertiliser in agriculture and forestry”.
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