Waste graphKeeping the region’s water and wastewater network flowing generates a substantial amount of waste – from the sludge produced at our wastewater treatment works to the material displaced when we dig holes.

We’re determined to minimise the amount of waste we generate, and manage unavoidable waste sustainably, through reuse or recycling. That way, we can conserve precious natural resources, play our part in UK carbon reduction, and save money.

Our target is to divert 95 per cent of waste from landfill by the end of 2015 – a target set in 2008, based on our historical performance and plans for the next five years. Some of the waste we deal with is difficult to treat, and achieving the target continues to require a big commitment from employees and contractors across many different business areas.

In 2013/14, we diverted 92% from landfill. Although, at face value, the figure is the same as in 2012/13, total tonnage of waste produced actually reduced by 11.4%. This was partly down to a decrease in sludge quantities, due to reduced volumes of wastewater from industrial sources – a trend that my reverse as the economy recovers. It was also due to a 10% reduction in excavated material, as we reached the end of our five year investment cycle, and as ‘no dig’ technologies, which reduce or eliminate excavations during capital work, took effect.

Key performance areas were:


Wastewater sludge: accounted for around 55% of waste in 2013/14. We continued to put this by-product to work, by using it to generate power. At our Davyhulme wastewater treatment works, for example, we recently completed construction on an award-winning thermal hydrolysis plant which uses a process of advanced digestion to maximise energy generation.

Excavated material: our second largest waste stream. Last year we managed to divert 90% of excavated material from landfill and reused 172,000 tonnes of waste for backfill or landscaping on our sites.

We remained conscientious when putting material back in to holes that we dug, with 47% of aggregates coming from a recycled source - nearly 141,000 tonnes of material. This reduces our dependence on finite quarried resources and creates a market for material that otherwise may have to be disposed of.

New and innovative ways of dealing with our waste were also explored. Currently, we are engaged in pilots to divert grit and screening waste (i.e. larger materials in wastewater that are screened before the treatment process begins) from landfill. Between them they account for just over 2% of our waste, and 16% of the waste that still goes to landfill.

Working with our contractors: we recently appointed four construction partners and an engineering service provider to help us deliver our investment programme to 2020, and possibly beyond. Sustainability was a key element of the tender process, and our new partners have been challenged to divert at least 95% of waste from landfill, through innovative design solutions and by entering into partnerships with specialist third party recycling contractors. We have also set the expectation that all aggregates procured should be from a recycled source unless other factors, such as excessive distance to a supplier, make this unfeasible.

Measuring and monitoring performance: we have developed a bespoke tool to help us monitor our construction partners’ performance. The UU Elevate tool will allow contractors to report their waste, aggregate and resource use, fulfil their Duty of Care obligations, demonstrate completion of ecological mitigation actions and report any environmental incidents or near misses. Data extracted from the tool will be used to inform a monthly supplier relationship management process which will seek to incentivise good performance and inform future tendering decisions.

Public awareness: We have recently been the subject of a six part BBC2 reality programme, which helped to highlight the problems caused by flushing inappropriate items down the loo. We continue to encourage our customers to think before they flush.

If you would like to send us a comment about this report, please email our Head of Sustainability, Chris Matthews