South West Water

A plea from South West Water - The 3 P's

You may be aware that the sewage treatment plant at Holbeton is currently having difficulty dealing with very high volumes of used wet wipes which have been incorrectly disposed of.

Holbeton Sewage treatment works is receiving unprecedented volumes of used wet wipes and it's causing concern.

Sewerage networks are only designed to cope with human waste, toilet paper and water.

There's a potential for blockages caused by people inappropriately flushing products such as baby wipes, hygiene wipes, moist toilet tissues, cleaning wipes, cleansing pads and sanitary products. These products
do not break down in the same way that toilet paper does.

Only flush the "3 Ps" , pee,paper and poo.

Bag and bin used wipes, moist toilet tissue and sanitary products including those labelled as flushable or bio-degradable.

- Graham Shears ( )

Environmental tip of the month – Laundry

Though it might seem like a pedestrian chore, doing the laundry has a much bigger impact on the planet than you might think, around 25% of our clothing’s life cycle impact comes from washing and drying. Here in the UK, that equates, on average, to 468 wash cycles per year, for a family of four.

I would like to be able to give some straightforward advice such as:  washing less; washing at lower temperatures; not using the tumble dryer; replacing old, end of life machines with more energy efficient models; and trying to slowly replace our synthetic clothing with natural fibre garments, to reduce the amount of plastic microfibres we are releasing into our waterways, all of which are good and valid points, but I have, however, discovered that it is not quite that simple.

There are indeed some good tips for reducing the amount we wash, the obvious one being to only wash clothes when they are dirty. I, (like many, I’m sure) am guilty of scooping up the family’s washing and bundling it straight into the machine, rather than sorting through to see what may still be clean.  Machine manufacturer AEG estimates that around 90% of the clothes that go through a wash cycle, are in fact not dirty enough to warrant being washed.  We could sponge off little messes, air our clothes on the line after wearing to make them last longer, do a sniff test on tops to see if they could last another day, not worry if we wear something 2 or maybe even 3 (?) days in a row – after all, in reality, how many of us actually do remember what our friend, work colleague or even our family members were wearing yesterday?

We have all been encouraged in recent years to reduce the temperature of our wash cycles to save energy, which does indeed generate significant savings (although we should run a higher temperature wash every now and then, to kill off any accumulated bacteria in the machine). But how many of us realise the water usage implications of those lower temperature washes?  Synthetics and delicates programs and low temperature cotton programs use significantly more water than the higher temperature options.  My 8kg machine will in fact only properly wash 8kg of washing on a cotton setting (the 60 degree option using 55 litres of water, the 40 degree option, 81 litres and very helpfully there is no water usage data for the 20 degree option!).  For any other program you are supposed to reduce the size of the load quite dramatically, the standard synthetics program at 40 degrees, uses 60 litres of water, but for only 4.5kg of clothing. Delicates and even lower temperature wash cycles reduce the recommended load sizes further still. Other brand machines show similar data. There is also sadly, a much more detrimental implication for those low temperature, high water volume wash cycles, that I will come back to.

Most of us know that tumble drying is bad for the environment, it is estimated that around 70% of the energy usage of a wash cycle is attributable to the tumble dryer and a whopping 32% of UK consumers use their tumble dryers even in the summer, when other means of drying should be available. Line drying where possible will always be the best option, but where bad weather scuppers that, a clothes horse or Sheila’s maid (Traditional ceiling pulley rack) are good alternatives.  For those worried about moisture build up in their homes from drying indoors, try running a higher rev spin cycle on your machine to remove as much moisture as possible before putting the washing out to dry, or it has also been suggested that running a dehumidifier at the same time, can be effective.  Whilst not ideal, the energy usage of both options is still significantly less than the usage by a tumble dryer.

Then we get to the topic of ironing, which, quite aside from many finding it both tedious and time consuming, consumes electricity unnecessarily and deteriorates fabric.  Try hanging clothes as soon as the wash cycle has finished, the water still in them will work with gravity to pull most wrinkles out.  For wrinkle prone clothing, cut the final spin cycle,  leaving even more water in the garment, creating more pull.  That is of course, in direct conflict with the suggestion to spin more to avoid tumble drying, I did say at the beginning that this is not simple and I have no solution to offer for those that want to not tumble dry and not iron!

And now to that detrimental bit, I referred to, earlier.  Many of us will have watched with horror, the TV and media coverage showing the release of microplastics (a term coined by Professor Richard Thompson from Plymouth University) from our clothing during the wash cycle, into our waterways.  It is estimated that a city the size of Berlin (3.65 million people in 2019), releases wash related volumes of microfibres equivalent to 500,000 plastic bags every single day (700,000 microfibres per laundry load). Given that 60% of clothing now contains some form of plastic, and that waste treatment plants are not able to filter those particles, those bits of plastic go into our taps and out into the sea.  It is nothing short of an environmental disaster.  Up to 30% of marine plastic pollution could be from tiny particles released by households and businesses, putting marine ecosystems at risk, clogging intestinal tracts, suppressing hunger by making organisms feel full, causing infertility and irreversibly damaging corals.

Research has been ongoing with some recent surprising results.  Previous assumptions were based around agitation in a wash cycle being responsible for the release of these fibres, cotton cycles typically using higher temperatures, less water and more agitation, synthetics, lower temperatures, more water and less agitation. The University of Newcastle has found that delicate wash cycles (which use about twice as much water as other settings) release on average, 800,000 more plastic microfibres than lower water settings. Somewhat ironically, the high volume of water, which is supposed to protect sensitive clothing from damage, actually “plucks” away more fibres from the material.

What can we do?   It would not necessarily be eco-friendly or practical to replace all synthetic clothing with natural materials, but please, wherever possible, if, and when you do buy new clothes, consider whether there is a natural alternative you could buy instead.  It will not stop the release of microfibres from our laundry, but at least the natural ones will biodegrade over time, the plastic ones will not.  Other suggestions include:  washing synthetics less often, with colder wash settings and for a shorter duration - for many of us that may involve consulting the datasheets for our machines to find the most suitable setting (most are available on-line if you no longer have a paper copy); fill your washing machine, rather than the smaller loads recommended by the washing machine manufacturers, for those colder settings.   Consider buying a Guppy friend wash bag or Cora Ball. A Cora Ball is made from 100% diverted and recyclable materials and catches around 26% of fibres that would otherwise be washed down the drain.  A Guppyfriend catches more fibres, but it is a bag and can only hold a certain number of items.  This doesn’t of course solve the problem of microplastics, as you are still left with a blob of fibres that need go in your black bin and which will not biodegrade, but better there, than in our waterways.  Neither device is cheap – around £25-£30 a piece and I cannot currently vouch for their actual effectiveness.

So, in summary, the suggestions for reducing your environmental impact will depend upon your own individual targets.  Having done this research, mine will be to reduce water usage and the release of microplastics; for others, it may be to stop using a tumble dryer.   The only clear-cut message that we can all take, whatever target we set ourselves, is that the most effective way to reach any of them, is purely and simply, to wash less.

Caroline Howarth, Holbeton PC Climate Emergency Subcommittee


SHDC – Commitment to Climate Change

A report highlighting South Hams District Council’s strong commitment to tackling key climate change and biodiversity issues is to be taken to committee this week.

Developed by the Council’s Climate Change and Biodiversity Working Group, the Draft Strategy and updated Action Plan, will be presented to Full Council on Thursday 17 December to request formal adoption.

Since the Council declared a Climate Change and Biodiversity Emergency in July 2019, officers have continued to work on tasks and projects that will help the District to become net zero by 2050.

These include reducing the Council’s own carbon emissions, continuing to work with partners, including the Devon Climate Emergency Response Group and our Joint Local Plan partners, Plymouth City Council and West Devon Borough Council, and to increase biodiversity by 10% in its green and wooded public habitats by 2025.

From the original funding allocation of £400,000, £20,000 has been committed to provide officer support for the expenditure of in excess of £500,000 to improve energy efficiency of residents’ homes using the Green Homes Grant Scheme. The Council is now committing to split the remaining £380,000, with £180,000 to address the Council’s own carbon footprint and the remaining £200k delivered over two phases, to support community initiatives through a range of match-funded grant awards.

Cllr Judy Pearce, Leader of South Hams District Council, said: “I am really pleased to report the progress of our Climate Change and Biodiversity initiatives. We remain committed to using the remaining £380,000 to the best effect. We are determined to reduce our own carbon footprint and also to support our communities to reduce theirs. We will do this through a range of actions including, funding a series of grants. It is important to back up our commitment in a way that maximises the benefits by levering in match-funding and capacity wherever we can.

“We continue to work closely with our Devon-wide partners and we are actively working with community representatives to get their views and expertise on an ongoing basis. We have started to change some of our fleet vehicles to electric and will continue to do so, as and when our existing contracts allow. Public electric charging points are in place in some areas of the South Hams with more already in the pipeline. We have supported eligible residents through the Green Homes Grant Scheme to help improve their homes’ energy efficiency.

“We are also publishing a monthly Climate Change and Biodiversity e-bulletin to share updates and good practise with our residents, which you can sign up for on our website. All in all, I am confident that we are making strong and steady progress to our Climate Change and Biodiversity agenda.”

The Council understand that Climate Change and Biodiversity loss are of critical importance and interest to a wide range of individuals and groups across the District. With this in mind, they arranged a Climate Change and Biodiversity Community Forum session, which took place on Wednesday 9 December and was declared a success by those in attendance. Together the Forum will continue this valuable relationship, where the Council and community representatives share expertise and knowledge to work together and support common goals.

Any new opportunities and initiatives will be updated in the continually evolving Action Plan as they arise.

A member of South Hams District Council’s Climate Change and Biodiversity Working Group, and Leader of the Council’s Green Party, Cllr Jacqi Hodgson, added: “This week’s formal publication of our Climate and Biodiversity Emergency strategy is very timely as it coincides with Devon County’s Interim Carbon Plan that was issued last week and the emergence of a number of climate action plans from parishes and town across the South Hams.

“Collaboration and ‘joined up thinking’ across the Councils with strategic incentives and ideas for the public to participate in meaningful actions to address the climate emergency will help us all to reduce our carbon footprint.”

To find out more about the Council’s commitment to the Climate Change and Biodiversity Emergency, visit:

SHDC – Solar Panel group-buying scheme will save you money and help save the planet


Devon’s householders have the chance to help the county become net-zero by joining Devon Climate Emergency’s (DCE) solar panel group-buying scheme.

DCE is made up of Devon’s principle public and private sector organisations, and they have joined forces to draw up a Carbon Plan, the county’s roadmap to carbon neutrality.

The DCE’s latest project is Solar Together and, with group buying experts iChoosr Ltd, they are offering homeowners the chance to buy high quality solar PV more cheaply than if they were buying alone.

Led by Devon County Council, the scheme is partnered by 10 of Devon’s planning authorities, who are all members of DCE’s Response Group (DCERG).

The scheme’s partners are East Devon, Mid Devon, North Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge and Torridge District Councils, West Devon Borough Council, Exeter City Council and Dartmoor and Exmoor National Park Authorities.

Solar Together is one of the ways the DCE is helping local people take a positive step to reduce their own carbon footprints.

Research by the University of Exeter shows that 19 per cent of all Devon’s carbon emissions are created by our homes, with more than half of those by grid-supplied electricity.  Installing solar panels will reduce the amount of grid-supplied electricity needed for things like hot water, with a transfer to more eco-friendly solar energy.

This scheme follows four similar projects run across the country last year which promise to deliver over 1,300 installations, saving an estimated 28,000 tonnes of carbon emissions from being produced.

If you are interested, the first step is to register for free – by registering, there is no obligation to install panels.

A ‘reverse’ auction involving pre-vetted suppliers will then take place this autumn and the winning bid will be the most cost-effective one for registered residents to then consider.

Registered households will then receive a recommendation, specifically tailored to the details they submitted in their registration.

If they accept the recommendation, the specifics of their installation will be confirmed with a technical survey and then a date can be set for installation.

Dr Phil Norrey, Chairman of the DCERG, said: “The DCE is committed to ensuring that Devon is net-zero by 2050 at the very latest.

“To achieve this, changes will have to be made at all levels, by everyone and every organisation.

“We will all have to take responsibility for our own carbon footprints, work together as a community and make the most of the opportunities that new technologies offer in areas including generating electricity sustainably.

“Solar Together brings together these three key elements, and by investing in a solar PV system, you will be part of the solution and will own your own solar ‘power plant’ which will continue to help reduce emissions and save you money for at least the next two decades.

“I would encourage any of our residents interested in cutting their energy bills and contributing to tackling climate change to register.”

Leader for South Hams District Council’s, Cllr Judy Pearce, said: "As part of the partnership, we're committed to finding ways to reduce our carbon footprint. We would encourage South Hams residents to sign up and see how collectively we can get a good deal for solar panel installation which will also go some way to reducing the District's carbon footprint. It's a win-win situation."

To register, go to: