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Wednesday, 03 June 2015

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Cumbria compost to feed apprentice ambitions

POT plants grown in compost from Cumbria’s biggest reservoir are part of an apprentice team’s charity challenge bid.

Nine United Utilities apprentices have taken the by-product of the water treatment process to create a nutritious growing medium for spring bulbs.

And now they’re handing them out as Mothers Day gifts at schools as part of a talk about recycling.

The project is all part of the 2014 Brathay Apprentice Challenge where talented young people from all over England compete to be crowned Apprentice Team of the Year.

To win, the United Utilities team will have to prove their team building, leadership, logistical and communications abilities through a series of challenges designed to develop new skills, boost local communities and raise the profile of their employer and apprenticeships.

Twenty one-year-old Martin Shaw, from Stanwix in Carlisle, a second year water network apprentice, took some of the pots to his former primary school in Norman Street.

“Recycling and the environment are extremely important issues that need to be recognised within local communities. We wanted to do something completely different to anything other apprentices teams had done before. We wanted to reach out to young people and have an impact also put our stamp on it,” he said.

The team arranged a donation of pots from a company in Stafford, and a donation of bulbs from a garden centre in Wrexham, north Wales.

They manufactured the compost by recycling a harmless by-product of the water treatment process from United Utilities’ biggest water plant near Kendal.

The material, known technically as “sludge-cake”, is actually billons of tiny particles of organic matter which is found naturally floating in Haweswater reservoir but which is strained out and treated as part of the process to make drinking water.

Light and crumbly, the material looks like a dark rich soil but actually contains no nutrients. It is normally spread on agricultural land where it is used as a soil conditioner.

The team added water-holding crystals, and the bulbs get additional nutrients from added fertiliser.

So far schools from Stockport to Carlisle have benefitted from the team’s inspirational talk, and the pupils each get a pot plant to take home to mum in time for mother’s day.

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