This guest interview comes courtesy of Katherine Horsham, Operations Support Coordinator at the Entrepreneurship Institute at King’s. Katherine become a Sustainability Champion in November ’19 and joined King’s Sustainability and the Sustainable Living Communities on a trip to the Bywaters Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in London.
- What is your name and what do you do at King’s?
I’m Katherine Horsham and I work in the Entrepreneurship Institute at King’s. Our mission is to support all students, staff and alumni to develop an entrepreneurial mindset to enhance their career and/or start a business. My role is focused on the Operations of the Entrepreneurship Institute.
- Why did you choose to become a Sustainability Champion?
I’ve been into all things the environment ever since I completed by Masters at King’s! I studied International Management and looking at the way economies worked prompted me to completely reconsider my lifestyle and career ambitions. Fast forward 10 years, and I’m now working at King’s. I manage our office space at the Entrepreneurship Institute, which means I have the opportunity to shape the way we do things to become more sustainable. And because we are a co-working space with 20 start-ups in it, there’s a lot of people-power, positivity and innovative thinking to make change happen!
- What does sustainability mean to you?
Sustainability is a way of living life that is conscious. It’s about committing to consider the impact of all our actions on the environment and changing our actions and systems as soon as we can. Ultimately it’s about respect for ourselves, each other and the other species that live on earth. Sustainability is inherently activist and collaborative and can’t be done from the side-lines. For me, thinking about sustainability is hugely liberating in our stressful modern world, and helps me to hone in on what I actually need to live a fulfilled life.
- Why did you attend this trip to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF)?
Recycling and creating closed loop systems is essential to living sustainably. But I feel there’s so much unnecessary confusion around recycling due to the way it is managed by local authorities. Even in London, each borough has different rules around what can / cannot be recycled! I’ve also become more conscious about what happens to my recycling once it leaves the UK after several stories about it actually getting dumped in the sea, so getting behind the scenes is really important to me. Most household / workplace recycling is mixed into one bin, so I also wanted to understand how the MRF separated it all and how much of an issue contamination is. The trip was also a great chance to meet the King’s Sustainability team and other Sustainability Champions!
- What was something interesting that you learned?
It might sound stupid, but the thing that I found most interesting was how the got the recycling out of the bin bags! They put the full bags through a ‘bag shredder’ and then people tip the contents out onto large conveyer belts to sort. When I think of MRF facilities, I don’t imagine people involved at all thinking it is all powered by machines. I think these people do an amazing public service and thinking about them in the MRF makes me want to do everything I can to make sure what I put in my recycle bin is as it should be.
- What was the most surprising thing on the tour?
The sound of the MRF in action! It was strangely relaxing and there were so many different sounds coming together to make a piece of music I suggested they should record and sell! I’m sure it would wear off after a while though!
- Will this influence your behavior going forward? If so, how?
Visiting the MRF makes me want to see more of these places that do things to dispose / recycle our waste. I think it has also made me more interested in waste on a systematic level, and not just on what I do with my recycling. The visit highlighted the importance of the steps in the waste hierarchy before recycling – refuse, reduce and reuse – and how our aim really ought to be to reduce our need for recycling centres. There is a conflict of interest here because the businesses that recycle our waste need to make money and to do that they need a constant supply – if not a growing supply – of waste material.
- Given our monthly focus on SDG 12, why does reducing your consumption matter?
This goal matters as for me it is the essence of what sustainability is all about. If you’re not thinking about this, I don’t think you can say you are truly striving to be sustainable. Some people might say that consumption is okay as long as it can be recycled, but that is a false economy because of the energy (from people and machines) recycling requires to make, use and remake things