Plastics Challenge: Liv Garfield, CEO Severn Trent

Plastics Challenge: Liv Garfield, CEO Severn Trent

We started the new term with visit from Liv Garfield, Chief Executive of Severn Trent who spoke with the whole of Year 7 at a special assembly about plastics in the environment, water and her personal journey.

The issue of plastics in the oceans is very topical in the press at the moment and Liv’s talk had the attention of the enthusiastic audience right from the start.  She introduced the students to the Great British Plastics Challenge and spoke about the impact of plastics loose in the seas around the world and the effect on marine and human life.

Liv Garfield, CEO of Severn Trent speaks to Year 7 students
Liv Garfield, CEO of Severn Trent speaks to Year 7 students

During the presentation there was a lot of interaction with the audience.  Students were keen to ask and answer questions.  One student asked how plastic gets into the sea in the first place.  “Lack of recycling and poor behaviour, such as people not disposing of litter properly,” said Liv.  Another student asked why we just simply stop using plastic to make things.  “Plastic is very useful.  The main problem is single use plastic and poor-quality products.  Only buy things in clear or white plastics, not coloured.  Colours like the black trays often used for ready meals can’t be recycled.”

Liv Garfield became CEO of Severn Trent in 2014.  Before that she worked at Accenture and then BT and Openreach.  As of May 2018 Liv, was the youngest female CEO of a FTSE 100 company and is a British Business Ambassador for the Department for International Trade 

Before moving to the topic of water, its usefulness and the future, Liv concluded speaking about plastics by saying: “My main message is this – don’t use single use plastics!  At Severn Trent we have no single use plastics at all.  We don’t use disposable bottles, cups, straws, bags, anything!”


In talking about water the presenter said that although the Earth’s surface is mostly water, the amount of drinkable water is very small – about 1% – which means we need to look after and use it much more carefully.  “Use water wisely,” said Liv.  “In 25 years’ time water will be a scarce resource.  Make sure you turn the tap off when you brush your teeth!”

Desalination plants and water treatment systems which convert waste water to drinking water are used around the world but using less water in the first place will save resources and be more efficient.

Make Changes

Liv certainly held the attention of the students whilst she spoke and one of the main messages was that the kinds of changes we need to make on the issues of plastic waste and water use were small.  “It’s mostly about habit,” she said “‘No straw please’ – how many of us say that when we order a drink?”

There was plenty to think about and there was definitely a buzz around the issues raised when Liv had finished.  Our school has already made a first step in the plastics war by banning single-use plastic bottles beginning from the start of this term.

The Challenge

  • Ditch the Big Four: bottles, cups, bags and straws
  • Take part in a community tidy up or litter pick
  • Persuade a business to change from plastic straws

Facts File

  • Between 60-90% or marine debris is plastic
  • Plastics were found in 100% of sea turtles examined
  • There is six times more plastic than plankton in the North Atlantic ocean
  • 71% of the Earth is water
  • Only 1% is drinkable water

Precious Water

  • Drink between 6-8 glasses of water a day
  • Turn off the tap when you clean your teeth
  • Have shorter showers
  • Use buckets to clean your car instead of a hose



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