A RAIL operator serving Hampshire has won an environmental award after increasing its recycling rate to almost 80 per cent.

South Western Trains (SWR) now recycles 3,900 tonnes of waste a year - the equivalent weight of more than 300 double decker buses.

The company has won one of the prestigious Green Apple awards, clinching gold in the Environmental Excellence category.

A company spokesman said: "Last year alone our customers staff and operations generated over 5,000 tonnes of waste – equivalent to almost 400 double decker buses.

"Over the past 12 months we have made some significant improvements to how we manage waste."

The company has boosted its recycling rate to 78% and hit its zero-waste-to-landfill target eight months early.

Since July all its waste has either been recycled or used to generate energy.

The spokesman said: "We have created coffee ground exchanges at a number of stations so customers can use them for composting. We have also introduced coffee cup recycling at our Wimbledon and Fratton depots."

Other innovations include arranging for old uniforms to be reused or donated to charities such as the Salvation Army.

SWR is also working with Network Rail to install drinking fountains at Waterloo station to cut the number of single-use plastic bottles used by passengers. The operator is planning to introduce fountains at "many more" stations on the network.

The spokesman said: "Our staff and customers generate significant amounts of waste including cans, crisp packets, plastic bottles and newspapers.

"The fountains will help discourage customers from buying drinks in plastic bottles when they are thirsty. Instead they can drink water from the fountain."

Amelia Woodley, SWR’s head of sustainability said: “It’s a fantastic achievement to win a Green Apple award.

"We have challenging recycling targets to meet and have worked closely with SWRnewstar to explore every opportunity to reduce our waste and maximise our recycling.

"Our station and depot teams' support and dedication has been a key part of our success."