Plastic waste artist sees gritty reality at sewage pumping station

Plastic waste artist visits sewage pumping station
Environmental artist Diane Watson visits Seaton Headworks sewage pumping station near Hartlepool

Diane Watson, an environmental artist based in north-east England, recently took a trip around one of the pumping stations run by Northumbrian Water to learn about how it keeps waterways and beaches clean and pollution-free.

Diane was invited to Seaton Headworks pumping station near Hartlepool to see what the water company deals with on a daily basis and was shocked at the volume of rags and waste handled at the works.

Treatment Works manager Kevin Bouttell, Production Team Leader Chris Fryer and operator Rob Stewart showed Diane how the process works. They said: “Diane was amazed by the size of our operation and the use of sophisticated technology to screen the sewage. We showed her the screen house and what we capture on a daily basis.

Environmental artist and campaigner Diane is currently focussing her work on the myriad of plastic items washed up by surge tides along the North East coast. Her collection of thousands of plastic tops, toys, bottles, lighters and other discarded items found on the local beaches are used to create kaleidoscopic patterns, turning the objects into something beautiful. However, Diane says: “Mother Nature is the last woman who would want us adding to the pollution of the planet. Plastic pollution of our seas is at an epidemic level with 8 million tonnes of plastic entering the sea every year.

Tampax necklace
Tampax necklace created by Diane Watson to highlight plastic pollution

One of her recent works has focussed on the plastic applicators used with tampons, which should be disposed of properly. “All of the plastic applicators used in my work have been collected from the beach, flushed down the toilet and washed into the sea,” she said. “Let’s start a conversation with our daughters, together we can put an end to this particular plastic pollution.”

Kevin Bouttell said: “”As a company we are passionate about protecting the environment and we are always really keen to get this message across to our customers and local communities in any way that we can.

“Dianne’s work sends a powerful message about protecting the environment in a really creative way. Everyone can play their part in this. Think about what you flush down the toilet.

“Don’t flush wet wipes and make sure only paper, pee and poo go down the loo – that’s a really good starting point towards helping make a real difference.”

Diane’s visit coincides with the launch of Northumbrian Water’s new Refill campaign which encourages people to ditch single use water bottles and use a refillable bottle instead. To find out more information go to