This guest blog comes courtesy of Isabella Trujillo-Cortes, 3rd year Biomedical Engineering student at King’s who participated in the three-week micro-internship opportunity (organised by King’s Careers) with the King’s Sustainability Team in April 2019. This blog comes last in a series of three blog posts from Isabella.
Sustainability in Estates & Facilities
Student Accommodation / Residences
Fit for King’s
Asset Improvement & Space planning
The United Nations state that good health is essential to sustainable development, and thus, King’s highly encourages healthy living and well-being. SDG 3 is the most popular within the department and maps across almost every division.
SDG 8 focuses on energy productivity. Given the number of computers, projectors and TVs across the university campuses it is vital that the Estates & Facilities department minimises the amount of energy consumed.
Income equality affects staff and students as it may prevent them from pursuing opportunities. SDG 10 states empowering lower income earners is vital, and Kings are taking many approaches to work on this. In some areas, for example, the Estates & Facilities department gives discounted rates to those with lower income.
An SDG also commonly shared across the department is SDG 11. To face the rapid growth of cities and increasing rural to urban migration, it is vital to focus on sustainable development. As Estates and Facilities manage the venues, residences and space planning in the university this SDG addresses this department most than the others at King’s.
SDG 12 is also implemented in almost every division. Aside from meeting the social responsibility and service targets, King’s also focuses on environmental aspects. It is important that we reduce our ecological footprint by adjusting our consumption and production methods. This goal is being achieved in the way King’s manages the world’s shared natural resources and disposes of toxic waste and pollutants. SDG 13 is also quite similar to 12. In managing our consumption and production methods, the human impact on climate change is reduced.
King’s is ranked as the world’s 14th most international university with over 40% of students being from outside the UK. The university focuses on establishing an inclusive community where students from abroad feel they are welcomed. This maps out SDG 16 which encourages peace and unity.
SDG 17 explains that the SDGs can only be realized with strong partnership and cooperation. To achieve this on a global scale we must begin locally. The Estates & Facilities department does so by raising awareness of sustainability and service to staff and students.
This guest blog comes courtesy of Isabella Trujillo-Cortes, 3rd year Biomedical Engineering student at King’s who participated in the three-week micro-internship opportunity (organised by King’s Careers) with the King’s Sustainability Team in April 2019. This blog comes second in a series of three blog posts from Isabella.
The following 2 sections contain the desktop research I have gathered on the sustainability practices within two departments at King’s: The School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences, and Estates & Facilities.
Mapping the SDGs: Biomedical Engineering at King’s
I attempted to match the information I found in the Biomedical Engineering Department website to the most appropriate SDG.
The Biomedical Engineering department primarily targets SDG 3. The United Nations state that universal health coverage is integral in ending poverty and reducing inequalities. The department focuses on achieving this through their research and innovation in healthcare and medical technology.
SDG 4 focuses on achieving inclusive and quality education, especially in developing regions. The university tackles this issue by giving students from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunities to progress onto higher education.
The application for target 4.5 states King’s Widening Participation due to the fact that STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) related subject streams are available to prospective students on the K+ and Realising Opportunities programmes. However, Biomedical Engineering is not specifically listed, thus, this could perhaps be an area of improvement.
SDG 8 promotes productive employment, technological innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation.
In the Professional Issues module I recently completed, I gained an appreciation on project management, entrepreneurship, sustainability and ethics. I believe it has grown my professional development and some awareness of global issues. The module, however, is 0 credits and thus many students did not attend lectures. An incentive to encourage more students to attend could perhaps be an area to focus on.
Investing in scientific research and innovation is a primary focus in SDG 9.
The department is well-known for their extensive on-going research in state-of-the-art labs and hence maps this SDG out well. Also, researchers themselves lecture many modules in the undergraduate and postgraduate courses. In doing so, students are more likely to then progress onto research and innovation themselves.
Due to the vast amount of energy used by computers and machinery it is important that the department focuses on responsible consumption and production as stated in SDG 12.
King’s sustainability department encourages sustainable labs across all departments who may use them. This focuses on areas such as control of fume cupboards, energy efficient management of cold storage, and recycling plastics.
To further encourage sustainable labs within the department, staff could become Sustainability Champions.
Interview with Paul Marsden (Development, Diversity & Inclusion Lead)
Most charities and sponsors are more likely to fund research projects and give grants to institutions who hold an Athena SWAN Award – many charities have this as a requirement. This acts as an incentive for the department to focus more on gender equality and inclusion. Many sponsors also require research projects to apply to developing countries. For example, technology must be widely used and accessible in all countries. This maps out SDG 9.
Furthermore, the department is involved in outreach activities organised by external companies: Nuffield summer programme, King’s Health Partner’s Summer School, Clinic Trials Day. These are aimed towards prospective students from under-represented backgrounds to encourage quality education for all – SDG 4. Other strategies, such as mentorships, are also being developed to support and encourage BAME students.
Along with the 2nd year Professional Issues module, the department also offers PhD training which focuses on social responsibility, ethics and engaging with industry.
Interview with Saad Qureshi (2nd Year Professional Issues Module Lead):
The professional issues module required students designing a business plan on a unique, biomimicry project (the application of nature to engineering). In this module, lectures focused on project management, ethics, and global sustainability issues.
The department’s aim in delivering the module, and teaching sustainability, was to develop student’s appreciation of nature and knowledge on social, economic and environmental issues. As biomedical engineering students, we are in a unique position to help tackle such issues. The project allowed students to develop their skills in sustainable design processes and eco-development. Saad explained that he hopes students will adopt a sustainable approach in our personal and professional lives.
The final part of Isabella's internship story will be published tomorrow, 17.1.20
This guest blog comes courtesy of Isabella Trujillo-Cortes, 3rd year Biomedical Engineering student at King’s who participated in the three-week micro-internship opportunity (organised by King’s Careers) with the King’s Sustainability Team in April 2019. This blog comes first in a series of three blog posts from Isabella.
My name is Isabella Trujillo-Cortes and I am a 2nd Year Biomedical Engineering student at King’s. I have just completed the Careers+ Global Internship programme where I undertook a 4-week internship in Hong Kong this July 2019.
The Careers+ programme is aimed towards UK undergraduate King’s students from under-represented groups.
I am of Colombian heritage and I was raised in Newham, London. Despite growing up in a low-participation borough and attending a state school where high grades were not common, I have utilized the support from widening participation schemes to excel in school and college. My up-bringing in London has exposed me to many cultures which motivated me to apply to the Global Internship Programme. As a proud Latina, I am motivated to share my traditions with those of other backgrounds and cultures. The global internship will give me the opportunity to do so.
Aside from the internship, the programme provided one-to-one support and specially designed workshops to support us in achieving life-long success.
To prepare ahead of the global internship and to familiarise myself with the work environment of a professional office, I was also given the opportunity to complete a micro-internship with the Sustainability Department at King’s.
Having recently taken a module titled ‘Professional Issues in Biomedical Engineering’ I was introduced to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The module enhanced my knowledge of the issues concerning our environment; however, I was not fully aware of the goals regarding social and economic aspects.
In addition, I am currently a Social Mobility & Student Success ambassador at King’s. In this role, I have been exposed to one of the many areas of service and sustainability which the university focuses on. I appreciate how the university supports and encourages prospective students from disadvantaged backgrounds through widening participation.
In completing my project with the Sustainability department, I saw how the
SDGs, as well as how global challenges (both environmental and social) are being addressed across the university.
I have also been introduced to the King’s Strategic Vision 2029 – a vision which sets out the aspirations of King’s to make the world a better place. King’s hopes to do this by amplifying Service as core to the public purpose of King’s and to facilitate participation of staff and students. The university are aiming to generate innovate ideas to impact society and work together to deliver these. The Service activity will be evaluated and measured in order to constantly improve strategies.
The internship raised my awareness of the student societies at King’s which tackle global challenges and promote sustainability. For example, the Enactus society (present at King’s, but also many universities world-wide) which implement community impact projects in order to enable sustainable human progress.
In addition, I have become more familiar with the practices and policies across the university to tackle environmental problems. For example, the methods used to recycle laboratory waste, save energy and water, and minimise food waste. The Sustainability Champions programme play a vital part in encouraging others to follow sustainable policies, initiative sustainable behaviour change and work together to reduce the negative and maximise the positive social and environmental impacts.
Furthermore, during my time in the placement, I was fortunate enough to have attended a Service Oversight Group meeting. I was informed about the wider service agenda and updates on progress and achievements. I was also introduced to a student-led project – the ESSA Project. Students delivered an audit report on the social responsibility at King’s which further informed me of the social responsibility practices in the university.
The social responsibility report stated that there was not sufficient communication to students about projects and volunteering opportunities. I find it interesting that this was the main area of improvement as, being a student myself, prior to completing this placement I was not aware of the many on-going projects around the university regarding Sustainability and Service. I agree that this area needs improvement in order to facilitate participation of students, and hence, progress in the Strategic Vision 2029. A training programme titled Supporting Service Leaders at King’s was also promoted in order to encourage staff to focus on Service in leadership. Such strategies such as these could further increase the participation of staff – both those working in Service as well as in other departments.
The service team also mentioned the idea of implementing compulsory modules in sustainability and service across all departments. As I completed a similar module in my course, which I found very engaging, I believe this idea is very likely to encourage other students to contribute in service.
After this internship I am looking to improve the statistics in student engagement by participating in areas of service throughout the university. I hope to join a student society where I can volunteer in social action projects to make an impact to our society and environment. I also look forward to encouraging staff in my department to become Sustainability Champions.
Kings are ranked 5th in the global THE University Impact Rankings and it is our responsibility to maintain this spot or potentially move up. I hope to contribute by playing my part in achieving the Sustainability Goals. Having completed this internship, I am now encouraged more than ever, to make a difference both on a local and global scale.
Lastly, by working in a professional office, I have enhanced my project management, communication, research and analytical skills. I hope to take these skills forward and apply them to my university studies and at my internship in Hong Kong.
This guest blog comes courtesy of Erk Gunce, PA to King’s Chief of Staff and Team Administrator in the Strategy, Planning and Analytics (SPA) department.
As the Strategy, Planning and Analytics (SPA) team, we are proud to report that, we did it! We broke free from our daily routines and went into nature. No, we are not stuck to our desks and no, we are not addicted to our screens. We did leave the office and we did have fun – and I personally ensured that nobody was checking their emails on their phone!
A few weeks ago, 30 colleagues from the SPA team took a day out of work to volunteer for a local charity. We were able to take a day off, thanks to the Service Time policy. As part of this scheme, all King’s staff can spend one day per year volunteering for another organisation. We chose to support the environmental preservation work of Groundwork London, and took the opportunity to get to know our team members better. Groundwork set us a variety of tasks over the day. These included designing and building a hibernaculum – a protective refuge for reptiles and insects. Hibernacula (pause for applause), allow insects to seek refuge from temperature changes, especially over the winter for protection against the cold. We also made use of loose wood from coppiced willow trees to create hedging, used as a fence to mark the outer barriers of a natural space, instead of relying on non-natural fencing material.
Building a hibernaculum for small mammals, insects and reptiles in the winter (above, left), finished hiberanculum (above, right)!
Coppicing wild willow trees (above, left) and turning branches into a natural hedge (above, right)!
Why did we do this?
This opportunity allowed us to do our bit by giving back to nature. It was very heart-warming to see our team addressing their previously non-green habits: colleagues traveled in using their bikes, no disposable cups were used and we made sure we recycled the leftovers from our lunch.
In line with King’s Vision 2029 ‘to make the world a better place’, this was a fantastic opportunity to give back to nature by building shelters for vulnerable creatures and making use of natural items to build natural fencing. Through taking a day out to support a charity, we also made clear our dedication to support non-profit organisations with their environmental efforts.
Because, team building and wellbeing!
Another crucial aspect of our day off was our commitment to improve the morale of our team and make everyone feel valued. The digital era can easily distract us from the beauties of nature. Encouraging our colleagues to spend a day immersed in a green space was an opportunity to boost their wellbeing. One of the challenges of being a large team is that staff might not know all their colleagues, or they may be mere acquaintances. After the event, staff commented that they had met new faces, got to know their colleagues better and enjoyed learning about each other’s personal hobbies and interests. Hence, it really wasn’t just about environmental support but equally a community building opportunity.
‘The whole experience was one of the best things I’ve done in ages. A brilliant combination of team building, physical exercise, a deeply gratifying sense of achievement and the feel-good high of helping to preserve and enhance urban habitation for native birds and animals’. – Scott Davison, SPA staff member
Here’s to hoping for more Service days – for our communities, for our staff and for a better world.
Want to use your Service Time to volunteer for a charitable cause? Get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org for advice.
On the 14th and 15th May 28 students audited the 35 office and residence sustainability champion teams across King’s.
The student auditors received IEMA approved sustainability training, delivered by a representative from the National Union of Students (NUS) in the morning, before taking a break for a working lunch. In this, students assessed the work the staff champions had done within their workbooks. These workbooks contain various actions covering several sustainable areas, including: waste, energy, health & wellbeing, biodiversity and service to the community.
Snapshot of the Procurement actions within the Silver Workbook
The teams need to complete 18/23 to achieve their Bronze, 23/28 for their Silver and have an up to date Gold project plan covering 1-3 years to obtain their Gold.
After lunch, students paired up and went out to audit two champions teams each. Students went through each completed action with their teams, identifying positive progress the team had made over the year and identifying any areas for improvement to take forward onto the next 19/20 champions year. After the audits, all students returned to the training room to feedback their findings and established which award level their teams should archive for this 2018-19 champions year.
Wonderfully, all 40 office and residence achieved their projected award level achieving a total of:
One student pair commented on the auditing process and champions work, saying: “We were really impressed by the changes they have implemented across the team, and how everyone has shown a true change in behaviour. The team have been able to encourage all employees to adopt a sustainable working environment. They have taken initiative on many occasions and their drive to achieve accreditation for their work is fantastic.” Another student commented that she “was impressed to see how passionate people were! Sustainability Champions helps King’s to go in the right direction and have a significant impact.”
This volunteer opportunity presented an opportunity for students to develop skills which is looks great on a graduate CV, including leadership and analytic skills. In addition, this opportunity allowed students to learn more about Sustainability at King’s and the efforts that go into this behind closed doors.
Student Auditors on 14 May 2019 Training Session
All staff champions will receive their Bronze, Silver or Gold sustainability awards at the annual Sustainability Award celebration in July. Staff will be joined in the company of the student auditors and their student champion assistants, as well as supporting sustainable groups and societies who have all helped to make King’s more sustainable over the past year.
2017-18 Sustainability Champions at the Award Ceremony last summer (2018)
This guest blog comes courtesy of Emily Dunne, Sustainability Champion in the Social Mobility Student Success.
Month 5: February & Finance
Looking into switching my pension to more ethical funds. This has been a daunting and opaque process for me, but I’ve been lucky in the support of some very knowledgeable friends.
Verdict: Definitely high impact but so far neither easy nor especially fun.
Month 6: March & Networks
The Network Effect: Sharing ideas, starting conversations and hopefully getting more people thinking about the small things they can change.
One of the challenges I’ve always had with this stuff is even if I am able to live completely carbon neutral with negligible environmental impact, I’m just one person on a planet of billions. But that’s what stories are for, so I’ve written this post in the hopes that a few of you will get something useful out of my experiences, and maybe between us we’ll have more of an impact.
And on that vein, it helps to think about your network: where are you connected, where do you have influence, who do you know who can change things?
This month I ran a workshop for my division at King’s to map our ongoing work against the UN Sustainable Development Goals, so we can amplify and celebrate positive contributions and reflect on how to reduce negative impacts. The output will be an ambitious sustainability plan encompassing the work of about 50 people and the workshop is now being prepped to be shared across the university – exciting stuff!
Sometimes all it takes is asking the right person the right question at the right time. Our office fruit is delivered by Oddbox, this year graduations went paperless, our last teambuilding afternoon was a Good Gym walk to volunteer at a foodbank. What could your workplace switch, and can you help make it happen?
Verdict: Relatively easy, pretty fun, and impact… well, you tell me!
More convenient, as it’s delivered to your home and much, much slower to run out
Cheaper per litre
Fewer plastic bottles thrown away
Sanitary products: Switching to Thinx was a completely revolutionary move. They are elegant, machine washable and so comfortable, I genuinely feel like one of the roller skating, skydiving women in those awful ads!
They ship from America, so watch out for customs fees
I’ve recently switched to these guys and now get toilet paper delivered (so convenient) in plastic free packaging (which is colourful and lovely), made from recycled office paper (no trees harmed in the making).
It’s quite a bit more expensive per roll, but the rolls are double the length, so from my initial experiment I think it’s pretty much cost neutral. And they donate half their profits to sanitation projects around the world!
This guest blog comes courtesy of Emily Dunne, Sustainability Champion in the Social Mobility Student Success.
Month 3: December & Christmas
Reducing the impact of Christmas by minimising stuff and emphasising experiences in gifts.
Buying memberships and tickets to events rather than stuff is a great way to gift memories, while up-cycling and crafting is a great way to create something meaningful and unique
Our work Secret Santa this year was capped at £5 and had to come from a charity shop, and we couldn’t believe what amazing presents people found!
I also made homemade crackers this year: cheaper, more sustainable and genuinely made everyone happier – imagine getting a lovely silk scarf in your cracker rather than another plastic keyring?
Verdict: Definitely easy and fun
Month 4: January & Food
Thinking more sustainably about what I choose to eat, where I buy it from, what it’s packaged in and how much is wasted.
Trying to eat more seasonally, with fortnightly Oddbox deliveries of fruit and vegetables, sourced from local farms from the ‘wonky’ produce otherwise wasted because it’s not ‘perfect’ enough to be sold to supermarkets.
Wonky fruit and veg are genuinely charming: favourites so far include three pronged kiwis, a cauliflower the size of a football, and a slightly small but entirely delicious pineapple.
Starting this in January means I’m far more familiar with British root vegetables than before. Still yet to cook a turnip well, but I’m learning. Looking forward to summer on this one!
Finally, the packaging is sustainable: nothing is plastic wrapped and they collect and reuse the previous cardboard delivery boxes with each delivery.
Moving all dried produce (rice, grains, pasta, nuts) into jars, beautifying my kitchen cupboards and laying the groundwork for buying plastic free from local bulk refill stores.
This guest blog comes courtesy of Emily Dunne, Sustainability Champion in the Social Mobility Student Success.
This journey starts in October, when I joined On Purpose, I started at King’s and took the WWF carbon footprint test for the first time. Horrified, I learnt that annually I was using 200% of my share of the world’s resources.
That same month we were flooded with news of an upcoming climate catastrophe following the IPCC special report and changing jobs had left me with a new work-life balance, with both time and mental space to think about what it might be possible to change.
So I set myself a challenge: Every month for the next year I am going to change one lifestyle factor to be more sustainable, and I’m going to try and maintain (or grow) the change for the rest of the year, in what will hopefully be an exponential curve towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
Since then, I have made changes to how I get around, how I eat, how I supply my house with basic essentials and even how I dress. I’m healthier, happier and feel more connected to my local area. I’m also more informed about environmental issues and the incredible work being done to tackle them globally.
It’s now six months in and when I recently re-took the WWF carbon footprint test I got a score of 125%. I’d never have guessed it could be both fun and easy to make that scale of change.
This is what surprised me most: it doesn’t need to be hard, it doesn’t need to be a sacrifice. There are a growing number of social enterprises making sustainable decisions genuinely more convenient and more fun than their less-green alternatives, and I’ve shared some of the ones I’ve liked below.
The first thing I had to do was pick where to start. At a basic level, my criteria was:
What is easy?
What is high impact?
What is fun?
By focusing on things that are easy and fun, I’ve built momentum for the things that are harder, like divesting pensions, and looking for alternatives to short-haul flights. The easy stuff is a great place to start; there are so many things that you change once and they’re done for good.
Month 1: October & Commuting
Switching my commute from bus to bike.
It’s now March and I’m still cycling every day!
I have saved at least £60 per month on bus fares
I have gained 30 mins per day in commute time, because cycling is genuinely the quickest way for me to get to work
I have lost weight and feel far fitter than I’d anticipated from an additional 30 minutes of daily cycling
I feel a lot more connected to my local area: I notice new spaces as I cycle past them in a way I never did on the bus
Verdict: Easy, high impact and fun!
Month 2: November & Home
Changing household habits and spending patterns; from energy providers to toiletries.
This is one I’ve added to every month, and I’m still collecting recommendations: The full list of things I’ve tried and would recommend is below if you’re interested!
To highlight the real game changers:
Sanitary products switched to Thinxin a completely revolutionary move. They are elegant, machine washable and so comfortable, I genuinely feel like one of the roller skating, skydiving women in those awful ads!
Energy provider switched to Bulb, which has only ended up costing us 20p more per month for a fully renewable energy plan and some of my friends who switched are saving money.
We now have greener versions of bulky items like laundry detergent, washing up liquid and toilet paper delivered: It’s cheaper, more convenient and the Who Gives A Crap toilet paper especially is more fun!
And possibly my favourite sustainability tipof the year has been trying to wear a new outfit every day – without duplication – for as long as possible, to stretch and make you be a bit more creative with your wardrobe. The verdict after 80 days and counting:
I’ve rediscovered all kinds of stuff in the back of my wardrobe and found new combinations of things that work together, so I’m not remotely tempted to go shopping and buy more clothes
I’ve been (I think!) dressing better, because I’m thinking about it not just throwing on any old thing
I’ve sketched my outfit each day, to make sure I don’t duplicate, and so have the beginnings of a little outfits menu, which is nice and, who knows, might make me dress better in future!
Verdict: Varied, but on the whole easy, high impact and fun!
Over a month ago King’s Venues met Buses 4 Homeless CIC at The HBAA annual dinner. Dan Atkins touched our hearts with his passion on his mission to provide a low cost holistic solution to homelessness by creating beds, providing food and learning in decommissioned buses. The Buses4Homeless mission is to provide 14,600 nights sleep a year, in the warmth of the converted double decker buses.
The buses will be refurbished to create sleeping , dining and learning areas. (Image: Buses4homeless website)
As part of the King’s Service Strategy, all King’s Staff get a day off dedicated to Service. As part of this, King’s Venues team took on the task to help Buses4Homeless to transform four buses donated by Stagecoach, which were left stationary in bus depots without use for several years, and would have eventually been scrapped.
The Buses4homeless mission is to help those affected overcome the issues which led to them being homeless. The aim is to help develop skills and get into apprenticeships and training and eventually into work. The buses will take 40 people at a time, helping build stability and a sense of community.
Strategy of Buses4homeless (Image: Buses4homelss website)
King’s Venues & Food team helping at Buses4homeless!
It was a great day of service with the team delivering 4 volunteering days to the charity. For more information about Buses4Homeless, please take a look on their website http://buses4homeless.org.
This is the story of what happens to all food waste from King’s!
I got a chance to join the King’s Sustainability team on a visit to an Anaerobic Digestion plant (Agrivert) in Virginia Water which was coordinated with Simply Waste, the food waste collection company for King’s. The tour was led by Charlie who has worked in the recycling industry for over 15 years, starting in local recycling then moving into food specific recycling.
This plant is where all King’s food waste goes to be ‘digested’ then reused as fuel in a methane gas form to power their machines, with any extra sold back to the grid to power 4400 local homes, and as compost to local farmers.
Big trucks drive up to the entrance, as they arrive they punch in a designated code which identifies which company they come from. A scale under the driveway weighs the vehicle and then the vehicle is given the green light to go into the recycling bunker. Once inside, the food waste load is dumped into a deep concrete ‘mouth’ where the process of decomposition begins.
Once the food waste is dumped into this concrete stomach, the waste is mixed with water to make it easier for any plastic contamination to be sieved out. This is where the plastic contaminated waste comes out and next to it a photo of said waste. The plastic waste is sent to an Energy from Waste Plant.
We were told that most food waste
recycling companies prefer food to be in plastic bags rather than biodegradable
bags as they are very hard to separate from the food. Biodegradable bags stretch
and don’t break as easy which makes them dangerous to the machinery that chops
everything up finely for digestion. In addition, they contain more water than
plastic, so cannot be burned effectively to get energy from waste. If you look
closely at the picture of plastic waste, you can see how big the waste is and
how easy it is to sift it out.
Once that is all done, the food waste sludge goes through one more pipe and any tiny bits of plastic and grit not caught by the grinder is siphoned out. After this, the waste is ready to go and gets fed into one of the holding tanks (or ‘Stomachs’ of the plant).
The food waste is now ready for a
long ferment (75 days in fact) in one of the five tanks they have. Having the
luxury of five tanks gives Agrivert the choice to choose which one to use first
and helps them if for some reason there is any kind of mechanical issue or if one
of the tanks becomes ‘sick’.
Anything can make a tank sick – we were told to think of it like our own digestive system, in that when you have something that doesn’t agree with you, you might need to a bland diet of something like chicken and rice for a few days to get your stomach back to normal. If one of their batches does gets sick, Agrivert has a ‘chicken and rice’ equivalent that they feed the tank and they soon feel better and are healthy again and they can get back to work! Making sure that the food waste is of a wide variety is important, if the tanks just receive one type of food – such load of bread or curry, the chance of getting sick increases (just like if a human only at one type of food for a long time). Therefore, Agrivert makes sure to balance what the tank receives to reduce the change of it getting sick before the ‘chicken & rice’ is necessary.
You will notice that all the
tanks have soft domes on them, this is where the gas created by the process
collects and is then used to power the Agrivert machinery with any extra sold
back to the grid. The power generated from their left-over gasses power up to
4500 local homes per year. The soft domes help identify when there is a problem
with the tank, as it will appear sunken and not fully inflated as seen in the
You can see the large motors on
the outside of the tanks. These are blades that move the food sludge and make
sure it is turning continually and kept warm throughout the whole process (at
body temperature – around 37 degrees). The blades are different sizes and
heights so that everything moves around and utilizes the whole tank.
The two long implements you can
see above are examples of what the blades that churn the food waste around the
tank look like.
It was interesting to see the re-purposing of shipping containers; these are being used as heat diffusion containers and the had several more as office and staff room space. The entrance has room for a couple of small offices, a large meeting room and presentation space as well as a kitchen and toilet facilities for the staff and guests.
The last bit of the tour took us past the huge pipe that you see below; we were told that if this pipe ever stops working it would lead to a very loud and dangerous explosion – it means that the methane expelled from the tanks is not moving freely around and has stopped, building up pressure and finally, exploding. Thankfully that’s has never happened at this Agrivert plant but has happened at others.
And this is the story of what
happens to the food waste collected at King’s College London!
If you get the chance, I would recommend you go and see how one of these plants operates (The Sustainability Team put on one or two trips to King’s waste facilities a year, follow Sustainability Team social media and newsletter to keep up to date on the next). If anything, visiting one of these plants will give you hope for the future of recycling and show you that it is possible to turn waste; food or otherwise into reusable energy that can power homes and fertilize crops.
The only thing I would strongly
suggest is: bring something to cover your nose & mouth, as the smell is
overpowering and it lingers on clothes.
I can’t even describe it. 🤢
Jane Picciano, Sustainability
Champion Gold, Maughan Library