United Utilities statement on microplastics research

Jo Harrison, Director of Environmental Planning and Innovation, said: “As a society, it is vitally important that we increase our understanding of microplastics pollution, allowing us to develop meaningful solutions to tackle this significant issue – and United Utilities is already working with others to address the problem. It’s therefore disappointing to see a number of flaws in the University of Manchester’s research, which takes a narrow view of the issue and makes several assumptions without evidence.

“The research ignores important sources of microplastics pollution in the immediate study area such as the presence of plastics recycling plants. The study asserts that microplastics are found primarily in close proximity to wastewater inputs. In fact the data shows numerous examples of increasing levels of microplastics when there is no wastewater discharge, plus a sample point showing one of the lowest levels of microplastics downstream of two wastewater treatment plants.

“We understand that wastewater will be a contributing factor to microplastics pollution, however this piece of research seems to be a missed opportunity to shed more light on the subject. We recognise we have a role to play which is why we are involved in a much wider two-year study beginning this summer to give a much more holistic understanding of the sources, pathway and consequences of microplastics in the environment. Only through collaboration and cooperation can this issue be tackled successfully.”