Have you ever wondered what happens to waste once it leaves King’s? For recycling, the answer is in the name: once it is collected, it is sent to a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), separated by type and quality, and packed up to be turned into new products. Last year, we visited Veolia’s MRF in Southwark, London, to have a look at the processes involved. You can read about our experience (and see us all in high-vis and hard hats) here.
But what happens to all the stuff that can’t be recycled?
This summer, we visited Grundon to find out. Grundon collect waste from King’s laboratories that cannot be recycled or recovered through traditional methods. Instead, it has to be incinerated at high temperatures in a clinical waste incinerator. In two chambers, the waste is burned for several hours and at temperatures of up to 1,100 degrees Celsius. Gases are cleaned through a gas scrubbing system to reduce emissions of pollutants such as CO2. The heat produced through this process passes through the boiler and creates steam, which is exported to their Energy from Waste (EfW) plant nearby, and used to power a steam turbine generating electricity.
After our visit to the clinical waste incinerator, we toured Grundon’s Energy from Waste plant. This is where general waste (e.g. the black bins at King’s, containing sweet wrappers, sandwich cartons, plastic film etc.) is processed. While general waste at King’s is collected by Simply Waste Solutions, not Grundon, the process is the same.
Waste is collected in a tipping bay, where a crane picks it up and feeds it into furnaces. Like in the clinical waste incinerator, the heat generated is used to power a steam turbine generating electricity. The EfW plant we visited processes over 410,000 tonnes of waste every year, and generates 37 MW of electricity. A small proportion of this electricity is used to power the plant itself, while the remaining electricity is fed into the National Grid – enough to power approximately 50,000 homes.
The ash that remains at the end of the process is used for road surfaces. This means that even though some things can’t be recycled, we can keep them out of landfill by using them to create energy.
If you want to find out more about recycling at King’s, you can head to internal.kcl.ac.uk/waste, where you will find our full recycling guidelines.
From 1 October 2017, all electricity directly purchased by King’s is supplied from wind power backed by REGO (Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin) certificates. Wind backed REGO certificates guarantee that our electricity is supplied from UK renewable wind sources, making our electricity carbon free.
This includes electricity supplied to King’s directly from our energy suppliers, but excludes electricity provided by NHS Trusts on campuses with shared space.
King’s has a target to reduce CO2 emissions by 43% by 2020 compared to a 2005/06 baseline, and is committed to becoming carbon free by 2025. Purchasing renewable energy is a significant step towards this goal. In addition, King’s has made significant investments in low-carbon energy on campus in recent years. Several buildings, including Great Dover Street Apartments and Champion Hill, are equipped with solar panels, and Denmark Hill Campus and Champion Hill have Combined Heat and Power (CHP) plants on site.
So far, King’s has achieved a 26% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2015/16 against a 2005/06 baseline. A recent report by Brite Green placed King’s in second place for carbon reduction within the Russell Group. The report also showed that King’s has successfully decoupled growth from growing carbon emissions, with emissions intensity (tonnes of CO2 emitted/£ of income) falling by 59% since 2008. This was the seventh best across the 127 English universities analysed.
Kat Thorne, Head of Sustainability, said: ‘Purchasing our electricity from renewable sources is an important step for us here atKing’s on our journey to zero carbon by 2029. Climate change requires an urgent response from all of us and here at King’s we will continue to identify and implement actions to reduce our energy use and related carbon emissions.’
King’s branded reusable water bottles are now available to purchase at King’s Food outlets from 2 October 2017.
These reusable plastic bottles are biodegradable, helping to further reduce our environmental impact and improving our sustainable catering. The King’s water bottles are available to purchase for £2.90.
We are supporting the #OneLess bottle campaign to reduce the amount of single-use water bottles that are used at King’s. Adults in the UK use almost 7.7 billion single-use plastic water bottles every year, which is approximately 150 per person. There are a number of water fountains at the university, and though disposable cups can be found at King’s Food outlets, staff and students are encouraged to bring their own reusable bottle or purchase one of the King’s reusable bottles.
This year there have been a number of other sustainability achievements at the university. King’s became a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association and in August was awarded with Fairtrade University status. Fairtrade food and drink that is available to purchase at King’s Food venues includes tea and coffee, sugar, muffins, chocolate and more. Coffee cup recycling bins were also introduced across the university in September to tackle the issue that disposable cups cannot be recycled with standard mixed recycling or paper recycling.
Tips about eating and drinking sustainably can be found on our Sustainability pages. There is also a Fairtrade and Sustainable Food steering group which meets regularly and is open to all. If you would like to find out more, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Starting this September, King’s will recycle coffee cups across campuses through the Simply Cups scheme.
Coffee cups have been a hot topic this year. Ever since Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall revealed that “doing the right thing” by putting our empty coffee cups in the mixed recycling bin might not be so good after all, there have been campaigns to tackle the problem.
Disposable coffee cups are mainly made from paper. To stop them from leaking, the inside of the cups is covered in a thin plastic (polyethylene) film – and it is this plastic film that creates problems when it comes to recycling the cups. Paper mills can’t separate the plastic film from the paper, which means that millions of coffee cups placed in standard mixed recycling bins actually end up in incineration or landfill.
However, there are some specialist facilities where disposable coffee cups are given a second life if they are collected separately. Simply Cups does this through two different ways:
Coffee cups are shredded, and the material is mixed with other recycled plastics to create new products – which can be anything from pens to park benches.
Fibre from coffee cups is recovered by pulping them with ambient temperature water – due to the difference in density between paper fibres and the plastic film, the plastic will float at the top and is removed. You can read more about this process here.
As a member of Simply Cups, we will now be able to recycle all disposable coffee cups. To recycle your cup, simply look out for the special coffee cup recycling bins across campuses. Once you have found your nearest bin, “#FlipTipSip” – Flip the plastic lid off the cup and place it in mixed recycling, tip any remaining liquid into the designated liquids part of the bin, and slip the empty cup into the collection tube.
The coffee cup recycling bins are initially being rolled out at:
Strand Campus, including Bush House, the Maughan Library and Virginia Woolf Building
James Clerk Maxwell Building (Waterloo Campus)
Denmark Hill Campus
If you are based at Strand, you might already be familiar with the scheme. The Maughan Library is taking part in the Square Mile Challenge, a campaign to recycle 5 million coffee cups in the City of London by the end of 2017. After exceeding its April target of 500,000 cups, the campaign has recycled more than 1.2 million cups by the end of July. Manchester had a similar campaign earlier in the year – with coffee cups now returning as bird feeders, plant pot holders and chalk boards.
King’s is working to increase its recycling rate to 70%. Combined with other initiatives, such as the introduction of food waste segregation from all canteens and the improved recycling guidance online and on bin posters, we hope the new coffee cup recycling scheme will help us achieve this ambitious target.
Want to avoid disposable coffee cups altogether, and save money in the process? Use a reusable cup! King’s Food offer branded Keep Cups at their venues. You get a free drink when you buy a KeepCup, and a 10p discount every time you use it. And lots of other companies are doing it too – Starbucks, Pret and lots of independent coffee shops will also give you a discount if you bring your own cup!
The Fairtrade Foundation has awarded King’s College London with Fairtrade University status. A Fairtrade University is one that has made a commitment to supporting and using Fairtrade.
The Fairtrade mark is widely recognised, and means that a product meets the social, economic and environmental standards set by the Fairtrade Foundation. For farmers and workers, this includes the protection of workers’ rights and the environment; for companies it includes paying the Fairtrade Minimum Price and an additional Fairtrade Premium to invest in projects of the community’s choice.
Over the last year, King’s and KCLSU have worked together to make King’s a Fairtrade University. A joint Fairtrade policy has been signed, committing the university and students’ union to supporting Fairtrade by providing Fairtrade products on campus and engaging students and staff in Fairtrade campaigns. Both King’s and KCLSU already sell a range of Fairtrade products on campus, including tea and coffee, chocolate, fruit and graduation t-shirts and hoodies. As well as making Fairtrade products widely and easily available to the university community, promoting the positive impact buying Fairtrade can have on lives across the world is a key part of being a Fairtrade University. During Fairtrade Fortnight in early March, Fairtrade was promoted through posters and special offers from King’s Food. Some Sustainability Champions teams got involved by organising their own initiatives, such as Fairtrade wine & chocolate tastings for their teams.
To ensure the improvement of not only Fairtrade, but the sustainability of all food at King’s, a Fairtrade and Sustainable Food steering group meets regularly to discuss these topics. The group is open to all, and if you are interested in finding out more please contact us at email@example.com.
The Fairtrade University award ties in with wider efforts to make food at King’s more sustainable. Earlier this year, King’s Food joined the Sustainable Restaurant Association and signed up to their Food Made Good programme, committing to sustainable sourcing and practices, as well as ethical standards.
Today is the first day of the Totally Thames Festival, which means Maria Arceo’s artwork “Future Dust” is now open to the public!
Over the last year, King’s artist in residence Maria Arceo has collected plastic from the banks of the Thames. The project was supported by the King’s departments of Geography, Chemistry as well as the Cultural Institute. Maria is passionate about archaeology and oceanography, and interested in the footprints humanity leaves on aquatic environments. Plastic is one of these modern footprints, with countless reports on the amount of plastic debris that ends up in the planet’s oceans.
Maria Arceo at Sustainability Week
As campaigns such as ZSL’s #OneLess, and Hubbub’s For Fish’s Sake London highlight, London is a city closely linked to the sea. Waste in the tidal Thames will eventually end up in the oceans, and after breaking down into microplastics plastic might end up back on our plates.
With her Thames Plastic project, Maria wants to show Londoners the real magnitude of plastic debris entering the Thames. Since September 2016, she has done over 40 beach clean-ups all over London. Some King’s students and staff joined her for a clean-up during Sustainability Week, and picked up a complete computer keyboard in the mud between Millennium Bridge and Southwark Bridge. After the beach clean-ups, the workshops to clean and sort the plastic in May and June provided a perfect opportunity to look at the curiosities Maria and her team of volunteers found in the Thames (some photos of her Somerset House workshop can be found here).
Now complete, the “Future Dust” installation is a giant human footprint, entirely made from plastic from the Thames. Starting today, the piece will travel along the Thames for the rest of the month. It is currently near Guy’s Campus, in Potters Field Park outside City Hall, SE1 2AA. Next, it will move closer to Strand and Waterloo campuses – it will be the Oxo Tower Courtyard (SE1 9PH) from Sunday the 3rd to Wednesday the 6th September. Details of all locations can be found on the poster below, or on the Thames Plastic website.
Are you interested in starting a career in sustainability? We are recruiting for a new Sustainability Projects Assistant.
Full details and information on how to apply can be found here.
The Sustainability Projects Assistant works closely with the Head of Sustainability and the Operations Sustainability Manager as a member of the Sustainability Team. The post holder will work closely with colleagues across Estates and Facilities as well as work with staff and students across the university in order to deliver the university’s sustainability objectives.
As part of the Sustainability Team the role holder shares responsibility for championing sustainability and supporting the university to embed sustainability across all its activities. In particular there will be a focus on staff and student engagement- supporting the team with the ongoing delivery and development of the 200 strong staff champions’ network and other staff and student engagement activities in order to achieve an increase in the pro-environmental awareness and behaviours within the university community.
This post requires a highly motivated and collaborative person who is passionate about making a difference to society and the environment.
This role would suit someone who would like to pursue a career within sustainability as a practitioner or consultant.
Key responsibilities and objectives of the job:
Deliver the University’s staff sustainability champions programme (Green Impact) and ensure continued staff participation from across the university with support from the Head of Sustainability.
Coordinate staff and student engagement activities and events such as Sustainability Week, the Sustainability Awards, cycling events, Sustainability forums, and contribute as part of the sustainability team to University wide events.
Work closely with E&F communication team and act as the main contributor and coordinator of the sustainability communications by maintaining related internal and external communications (e.g. web pages, blog, SharePoint, social media sites), responding to queries, writing reports and providing presentations for relevant groups etc.
Assist with the implementation and operation of the University’s Sustainability Management System to ISO14001 standard. Support the management and maintenance of appropriate environmental monitoring systems, surveys and audit processes and their incorporation into existing systems and procedures and records.
Recruit and manage student sustainability volunteers.
Provide project support for other sustainability projects as agreed – examples include:
Sustainable food and Fairtrade
Sustainability communications and engagement
Education for sustainable development
Data management and analysis
Sustainable construction and refurbishment
Champion sustainability and support integration of sustainability into existing College policies, procedures and activities.
Engage and liaise with staff, students and other sustainability and environmental related groups, to support the practical adoption and implementation of innovative ideas on campus.
Support the collation of internal and external sustainability data submissions e.g. dashboard reporting, Estate Management Record and annual environmental report.
Support the engagement and liaison with teaching and research staff, student and other sustainability related groups and individuals in support of sustainability in the curriculum and research agenda.
Assist in the development and delivery of sustainability training for staff and students, e.g. new staff inductions, staff sustainability champions, departmental training, student lectures and workshops.
Represent the University externally at sustainability related and higher education networks e.g. London University Environmental Group.
Undertake other duties as may be required that are commensurate with the level of the post.
The 2nd August was Earth Overshoot Day 2017. This means that by this day, we have used more resources than the planet can renew in 2017, and emitted more CO2 than global forests can absorb.
The date for Earth Overshoot Day is not fixed. Instead, it is calculated* each year, changing as humanity’s ecological footprint changes. Looking at how the date has moved in recent decades reveals a worrying trend: Earth Overshoot Day comes earlier each year. While it was in November or later in the 1970s and 80s, it moved to August in the 2000s.
Earth Overshoot Day comes just days after an article published in Nature Climate Change suggests that based on current developments, there is only a 5% chance that we will meet the target to keep global warming below 2 degrees by 2100. This is the target set in the 2015 Paris Agreement. Instead, there is a 90% chance that our planet will warm by 2.0-4.9 degrees by 2100, which could have potentially catastrophic impacts.
With this in mind, what can we do to reduce our carbon footprint? As with many things, the first step could be measuring it. The Global Footprint Network has a calculator that allows you to work out your own Overshoot Day and ecological footprint. WWF also have a calculator that shows you the % of your share of carbon emissions you are using, compared to 2020 emission targets.
For many, flying and food will be the biggest contributors to our footprint. A transatlantic flight can emit as much as 1 tonne of CO2, and meat-heavy diets also carry a carbon price tag. As a university, King’s emitted over 35,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2015/16 – this is down 26% from 2005/06, but there is still work to be done to reach the target of a 43% reduction by 2020 and being ‘carbon free’ by 2025.
What can we do once we know how much we emit? There are many actions you can take to reduce your own environmental footprint. Why not try out some tasty vegan/vegetarian recipes? Or cycle or walk to university? You can also offset carbon emissions from your flights through various projects. The UN has also created the “Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World”, a guide with actions you could take from the sofa, in your home, or in your neighbourhood. Whatever you choose to do, it is important to remember that while actions may seem small, they add up to something big when millions of people around the globe commit to them!
*Earth Overshoot Day is calculated by dividing the planet’s biocapacity (the amount of ecological resources Earth is able to generate that year) by humanity’s ecological footprint, and multiplying this by 365. More information here.
King’s College London operates an Environmental Management System (EMS) across all campuses. In 2016, this system was externally audited at Strand Campus, and certified with the ISO14001:2015 standard.
This year, Estates & Facilities have worked to extend the certification to all campuses, including Residences and sports grounds. Following a successful external audit of all campuses, the Environmental Management System is now ISO14001:2015 certified across King’s Estates & Facilities. Professor Ed Byrne announced the great news at this year’s Sustainability Awards.
Solar panels on the roof of GDSA
ISO14001 is an international standard which helps organisations use resources more efficiently and reduce waste. This achievement demonstrates the strong commitment and leadership for sustainability at King’s, which is apparent not only through the many initiatives underway, but through King’s Strategic Vision 2029, which has sustainability as one of the enabling foundations.
The EMS is at the heart of embedding sustainability at King’s, and takes a holistic view of the environmental impacts and risks arising from our activities. As well as minimising negative impacts, it drives improvement through identifying opportunities for King’s. One of the highlights noted in the audits were the opportunities for enhancing biodiversity. There is a lot of green space at our sports grounds, but even at our main campuses improvements have been made – such as the instalment of bird boxes and an insect hotel at Guy’s Campus.
On achieving the certification, Nick O’Donnell (Acting Director of Estates & Facilities) said: “We’re delighted to receive the certification, and are very pleased to be recognised for the progress we are making in reducing our impacts. This is a fantastic achievement for all operational teams in Estates & Facilities and for our service partners, working across such a large and diverse organisation.”
Professor Ed Byrne, President & Principal of King’s College London, opened the awards by highlighting how important sustainability at all levels is to King’s.
His full speech is now available on our Youtube Channel:
“Thank you Kat Thorne, Tytus, the team, and thank you to all of you who have been involved in this amazingly important work over the last year. You will all have seen Vision 2029, hopefully more than once by now, and […] empathise with the tagline of 2029, ‘To make the world a better place’. And of course, there is no more important way to do that than around the incredibly important agenda of sustainability […], arguably the most important single area the human race needs to do better in.
So, thank you to you all. To our students, to our Champions, and many of you are in the audience. To those supporting them, and to those for whom it is part of their job role: our cleaners, our security, our engineering staff. We are here to celebrate a year of achievement by everyone, and this is an area where individual actions tell the whole story. Individual actions by a large community such as ours add up to make a real difference.
So, what does sustainability mean to King’s, what does it mean to me? It’s so important that everyone in the university buys into this agenda. It’s at all levels – if one believes in levels at a university. It’s bottom-up, it’s top-down, it’s in departments, it’s in professional staff, it’s in academic staff, it’s in our student body; we all have to show commitment in this area. Sustainability is one of the core foundations of Vision 2029, and is integrated throughout this vision, it comes up time and time again. We have a duty, a responsibility, to support and deliver, in a number of domains, against the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. This applies to our research, our education, and to how we run our business, our university operations, I know many of you in this audience who are involved in this area.
As we know, this is important for people of all ages, but it is particularly important to our students. And I think it’s not just because they are young people and are likely to be around for longer and see what happens to the planet over the next 50 years. But it’s because young people have a passion to preserve the environment. We all do, but there’s no doubt it’s developed deeply and strongly in our youth, in this country and around the world. 89% of King’s students, in a recent survey, stated that sustainable development is something universities should actively incorporate in their missions and promote. Our students, in their activities and running societies, in acting as volunteers in so many different areas, in working with the local communities, make a difference around the sustainability agenda. This is incredibly important to our students’ careers and employability, the opportunity to have careers in sustainability, the opportunity to take part in events which are supported by our alumni who are sharing their experiences with our students. So I want to thank our students and our graduates who have worked with the team over the past year, and good fortune to them in the future. Let’s acknowledge them now [applause].
We have to get better at this all the time, there is no room for complacency. But I think we are working to constantly improve the way in which we make sure our students leave this university with the skills and knowledge necessary to be agents of change, and to be able to make a difference in promoting a sustainable world.
Let me turn to research a little more. There are umpteen examples of colleagues working around King’s to address global grand challenges under sustainability theme. I could mention dozens of examples, but I’m just going to mention two or three. The Global Consortium for Sustainable Outcomes (GCSO), where in one project we are carrying out a living lab project in our own buildings to reduce the carbon footprint and the use of hot water – something simple, but complex. And I must mention the PLuS Alliance, because it has been a sort of baby of mine to get this under way. Combining the strengths of three leading research universities on three continents, all with significant activities around the sustainability agenda – Arizona State University (ASU) in Phoenix, King’s in London, and University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia – and focusing many of our colleagues in those universities to work together around the global grand challenges in health, social justice, sustainability, technology and innovation. This is hugely important. We’ve seen great momentum since the launch of PluS last year, we’ve appointed over 100 PLuS fellows working across the three institutions, and the sustainability agenda is the dominant agenda to date – we have 11 research projects with seed funding.
Now, let me move on to another of the key domains which I alluded to briefly: our operations as an institution, because we have to live the dream, we have to do our bit and be an example to others. Sustainability Champions have a crucial role to play in reducing the negative impact of our operations. The Champions know their area best, they can identify positive actions and work with their colleagues to make a real difference in their area. And we have this in spades.
Much of the work we’re going to hear a little bit about is focused on reducing the environmental impact of our research in labs, while also improving the research environment. A laboratory consumes up to 5 times more energy than a typical academic space, therefore actions of Lab Sustainability Champions can have a big impact. We were highly commended at last year’s Green Gown Awards, a major award, for our Sustainability Lab programme. And it’s really great to have worked closely with a university I was a little connected with, UCL, and to have Champions working across King’s and UCL, auditing each other and sharing good practice across these institutions.
I am also delighted to announce that this year our colleagues across Estates & Facilities and the sports grounds have been externally audited, and last month they were accredited in a major programme: the ISO14001 programme, an internationally recognised standard for environmental management. Can you join me in saying well done to everybody who played a role in that achievement [applause].
This year, we’ve had some incredibly engaged colleagues right across the university, truly making a difference in their workplaces. We look forward to celebrating with them shortly, as we celebrate their awards.
Finally, for the next year, this has been an increasingly powerful story at King’s over the last three years. I have no doubt that the coming year will be no different. I am sure that we will perform against our agreed objectives in our Sustainability Charter. One thing I intend to do is report regularly to Council about that now, because we have some momentum around that and I think it has reached that stage. I was reading a university I worked at for many years in Australia, the University of Melbourne, is recycling their office equipment, and they have made and saved a bit of money in this highly sustainable agenda. I was delighted to see on our notice boards that we have saved £40,000 just by recycling office furniture at King’s, which is a phenomenal achievement and exactly the sort of initiative we need to continue.
In my own contribution over the next year, I am going to ensure that as we launch the new King’s Business School as the next Faculty at King’s, sustainable development and educating business people for the future in triple line reporting and in sustainable development will be a key theme of our school, that I want it to become renowned for throughout the world. That again will be a big step forward for King’s.
In summary, it has been a terrific year. Thank you to you all for the contributions you have made, it’s all about you, about what you do and what you achieve. And I think next year, we will continue on this upward curve. Thank you all.”
Welcome to the blog of the King's Sustainability team! Our aim is to keep you informed about sustainability at King's including events and opportunities, as well as to inspire discussion and action on and around Campus. Please join the conversation!