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30 million single-use plastic bottles could be saved thanks to innovative design by University of Plymouth student

16 December 2019

University of Plymouth students were given the opportunity of a lifetime to make a difference to the environment through a collaborative engineering project. On Friday 6th December, Polzeath-based charity Our Only World announced that Plymouth student Ross Mackley had won their sustainable design challenge for an innovative water fountain concept.

The innovation competition tasked MSc Advanced Engineering Design students with designing a cost-effective water refill station that is planned to be placed on every major beach in Cornwall and the UK. The talented students from Plymouth competed for £500 prize money and the opportunity to create a fountain design that will be manufactured locally to reduce the number imported from the USA.

Our Only World hope to have a functional prototype ready for WRAS testing by January, with production beginning as soon as February.

The competition was supported by Neptune Rum, with the prototype being funded by Acceleration Through Innovation (ATI), a £3 million ERDF innovation project led by the University of Plymouth and working to support innovative businesses throughout Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

It came shortly after Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, announced he was going to spend £1.7million on over 100 water fountains around the capital in a bid to reduce plastic pollution.

Paul Gilbert of SWMAS, manufacturing experts in the South West, provided technical one-to-one support to Our Only World, with additional support coming from Professor Anthony Robotham, Deputy Head of the School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics.

Supported by Professor Richard Thompson OBE, Director of the Marine Institute and Head of the University’s International Marine Litter Research Unit, the competition was judged by ATI Senior Project Manager Jo Hancock, Paul Gilbert, and a panel of Cornish business leaders. Ross was awarded a £500 cheque for his winning design ‘Aqua Tap’.

The project not only allowed students to think creatively, but also looked to address the wider causes of single-use plastics and stem the flow of plastic pollution along the coastline.

Tina Robinson of Our Only World and Polzeath Marine Conservation Group stated: “It’s the charity’s aim to have a Cornish-made water refill station on all of our beautiful beaches. If we can site 15 of these units, we will potentially save the use of 30 million single-use plastic bottles over their 10-year life.”

In addition to the competition, Our Only World is working with ATI to inspire and raise awareness of the fight against marine plastic pollution and its effect on our only world. 15,000 litres of water was drawn from each water fountain located in Polzeath and Rock, reducing thousands of single-use plastic bottles from the waste stream.

Photograph by Tempest Photography

Back row:
Professor Richard Thompson, Julian Harding, Jessica Oatey, Stephen Pritchett, Ed White, Jeremy Jewitt

First row:

Amanda Burton, Tina Robinson, Ross Mackley, Paul Gilbert, Professor Antony Rowbotham

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