England’s first pollution-busting “moss tree” has been installed in Newcastle, where it will purify air in the city centre and create opportunities for research into the benefits of the plants’ natural filtering abilities.
Northumbrian Water Group (NWG) has been working on the plans since July 2017, when it held its first ever NWG Innovation Festival, working with a range of partners to identify ways it can tackle a wide range of social and environmental problems.
The company reached an agreement with Newcastle City Council to site the tree at the Haymarket, close to the city’s bus interchange and busy main roads.
The moss cultures involved in the “tree” have the ability to filter certain pollutants, by binding them to the leaf surface and then integrating them permanently into their own biomass. This makes them ideal air purifiers. The moss is built into the “Moss Tree” structure, which provides the water – largely harvested from the rain – and the shade the moss needs to survive, creating an intelligent combination of technology and nature.
The results achieved will be made available for universities and other bodies on an ongoing basis, to feed into their own research on tackling pollution. Built-in sensors will gather information on pollution including Nitrogen Oxide, Nitrogen Dioxide and Carbon Dioxide, as well as monitoring air humidity, temperature and rainfall.
The NWG Innovation Festival involved Northumbrian Water working with 140 partner organisations, including headline sponsors IBM, Microsoft, Ordnance Survey, BT, CGI Group and Reece Innovation. More than 1,000 people took part during the course of the week-long event.
Among the issues tackled in special “sprints” was the subject of how businesses can improve the environment in the North East, with Northumbrian Water working alongside Ordnance Survey to explore the subject. The moss tree was one of the leading ideas to come out of that week.