Category: Waste (page 1 of 3)

A visit to Grundon’s Energy from Waste plant

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.

Grundon smallAfter 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, where you will find our full recycling guidelines.


Meet Josh, our Waste to Resource Project Coordinator


Photo of Josh2Hello! Well, where do I start? I’ve been tasked to sort out all of your rubbish – which may be seen as a massive ‘waste’ of time. Okay, I’ll stop with the waste puns right now. My formal title is Waste to Resource Project Coordinator, which entails me helping King’s to achieve it’s 2018/19 goal of recycling 70% of all its commercial waste, along with aligning waste practices across the King’s estate.

Since joining the team in August 2017 I have implemented coffee cup recycling across certain sites with the message that “King’s is taking responsibility for the waste it generates”. It’s important that the University looks to mitigate its effect on the environment and this a great way to get the ball rolling and promote a circular economy. I am currently working with the newly appointed waste provider, Simply Waste Solutions, to rationalise the bin systems we have in place to ensure our cleaning team have the tools to achieve our 70% recycling goal. Once this has been accomplished I’ll be looking at the bin provisions within our buildings, ensuring that 70% of all the bins inside are designated for recycling, giving you a 70% chance of recycling your waste. “70” is the golden number and by applying this to everything we do I have no doubt we WILL achieve our target by 2018/19.

I have been working alongside King’s for a number of years, helping to assist the cleaning team with the integration of non-chemical based cleaning products, and working on efficient waste management. I then migrated to the King’s facilities team at the Strand, working in Operations to improve student facilities including the roll out of Deluxe Bike Stands across the King’s Estates.

I am always open to innovative ideas and pragmatic approaches to dealing with waste, so if you have any ideas please do get in contact with me. My email is or you can get in touch at

Away from waste, I’m also the Co-Chair of the King’s LGBT+ Staff Network promoting Diversity & Inclusion in the institution and working with departments and faculties to promote a fair and comfortable environment for LGBT+ people at King’s. If you are a staff member and would like to hear about events, volunteering opportunities or just meet up with fellow LGBT+ colleagues email to join the newsletter.

Biodegradable reusable water bottles now available at King’s

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.

BottleWe 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

Don’t be a mug – recycle your cup: Coffee cup recycling now available at King’s

Starting this September, King’s will recycle coffee cups across campuses through the Simply Cups scheme.Simply Cups infogram website

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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)
  • Guy’s 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! 

‘Future Dust’: Explore plastic litter at the Totally Thames Festival

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

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.

King’s achieves ISO14001:2015 certification

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

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.

BikeManMaughanLibrary420x280On 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.”

Thames Plastic Lab

Until Sunday, the 11th June, Thames Plastic are taking over the Somerset House River Terrace with their Thames Plastic Lab.

Over the last year, King’s artist in residence Maria Arceo and a group of volunteers (including Thames21, King’s staff, and students during our Sustainability Week) have collected plastic from the beaches of the Thames. They have then spent a few weeks at Canada Water, washing the plastic so it can be used. plastic lab poster

Now, the project has reached the next stage: sorting it by colour so it can be used in an art installation as part of the Thames Festival.

The Thames Plastic Lab is  a collaboration between King’s College London’s Departments of Chemistry and Geography, the Royal Society of Chemistry and artist Maria Arceo, supported by the Cultural Institute at King’s. Throughout this week, they are inviting the public to come along and learn what kind of plastic ends up in the Thames, how it gets there, and what you can do. You can also pick a piece of plastic and ask for it to be analysed! In the end, all the plastic from the workshops will be turned into an art installation to raise awareness for the problem of plastic pollution in our rivers and oceans. The Plastic Lab has been a great success so far, you can see pictures of the event on Twitter.

The Thames Plastic Lab will remain open until the 11th June.

Opening times are:

9th June: 16:00-18:00

10th-11th June: 11:00-18:00

More information can be found here. Make sure to drop in!


Our neighbours from Hubbub are currently also running their own campaign to combat plastic waste in the Thames. With #FFSLDN (For Fish’s Sake London, don’t drop litter!), they are trying to engage Londoners in a conversation about our littering habits.

UNSDG #14For example, do you know what tidy littering is? It’s leaving your rubbish next to a bin, on top of an overflowing bin, or on a wall or ledge. It might seem innocent, but rubbish often falls off, gets blown away, and ultimately ends up in our great river. 300 tonnes of litter are cleared from the Thames every year – showing how important things like the Thames Plastic project are. Ultimately, plastic pollution becomes a very real problem for people. It is estimated that 70% of fish in the Thames have plastic in their guts, and plastic increasingly makes its way into our diets through fish that have swallowed small pieces of plastic. So next time you drop a piece of plastic, make sure it’s in a recycling bin!

Big recycling news!

If you have looked at the bins at King’s recently, you might have noticed our new recycling guides. King’s is committed to achieving a recycling rate of 70%, and our new recycling guidelines are a small part of the wider changes that have been happening behind the scenes in the last months.

New recycling guidelines

New recycling guidelines

Throughout this summer, our new waste contractor Simply Waste Solutions will start collections at all campuses, beginning with Denmark Hill this week. Simply Waste Solutions will replace several current contractors, and help us deliver a more consistent service across King’s. This means no more differences in what can/cannot be recycled depending on campus!

In addition to the new bin signage, we have created a Waste A-Z to help make recycling as easy as possible. This guide can be found at If you would like to see additional resources, or have questions about other waste types, please let us know!

Our contract with Simply Waste Solutions means we will now be able to tackle more waste streams. One of these is food waste, which is currently only separated at Strand. With the new contract, King’s Food will separate their kitchen waste at all campuses, and send the waste to anaerobic digestion. In addition to this, we will be able to extend our coffee cup recycling programme to more campuses.

30,000 coffee cups

30,000 coffee cups ready for recycling

The Maughan Library already has this programme in place as a result of taking part in the Square Mile Challenge, and other campuses can expect to see coffee cup bins pop up in the next months. Usually, only 1% of disposable coffee cups in the UK are recycled. With the Simply Cups programme, we can collect cups and Simply Cups will turn them into new products. So don’t be surprised if your coffee cup makes its way back to King’s looking very different (e.g. a canteen tray or pen).

So, what happens to our waste?

As long as it is not contaminated, everything in our recycling bins will be given a second life. Paying attention to the recycling guidelines is important, as recycling bags may be classed as “contaminated” if they contain non-recyclable waste. Contaminated bags may end up being rejected, so it is important to pay attention to what goes in the bin. A common doubt regarding recycling is how clean items like plastic pots should be when going in the recycling bin. Things like yoghurt pots and plastic bottles should be empty and not contain any food or liquids, but they don’t need to be spotlessly clean. A rule of thumb is that if you would happily stick your hand in the recycling bin after binning your item, and it could come out clean and dry, it’s good to go in recycling.

KCL EF RECYCLE PUFFS - 1Our food waste goes to anaerobic digestion. This means that it will be put into sealed containers and broken down by natural micro-organisms. At the end of this progress, two products remain: biogas, to be used as fuel to generate renewable energy; and a nutrient-rich digestate, used as fertiliser.

Glass waste is sent to plants where it can be washed and sorted into colours. It is then melted and moulded into new products. As glass does not degrade through the recycling process, as paper fibres do, it can be used again and again!

The remaining general waste is not sent to landfill, but incinerated in energy-from-waste plants. The created heat is used to generate electricity (fed into the National Grid) and to heat homes. The remaining ash is collected and used as a material for road construction.

This means that with Simply Waste Solutions, we are able to send zero waste to landfill for all of our general, bulky and food waste.

Simply Waste's chief mouser

Simply Waste’s chief mouser

Fun fact: On a recent visit, we met Simply Waste Solutions’ very own chief mouser – a former stray who just turned up and moved in one day. Here he is, roaming the waste yard and making sure everyone recycles properly.

King’s joins Sustainable Restaurant Association

King’s is now a member of the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), enabling the university to provide more ethical and sustainably sourced food. King’s Food have also signed up to the SRA’s core programme, “Food Made Good”.

Food can have a significant environmental and social footprint. Examples of this are production methods that may harm the environment, such as destruction of habitats and therefore loss of wildlife for agriculture, exploitation of workers in the developing world, or wasteful practices that mean food produced never makes it to our plates. Recently, MPs have called on supermarkets to help reduce the £10 billion worth of food thrown away every year, for example by clearing up confusion around ‘Best Before’ labels. There are now many initiatives to help cut food waste.

Shot_10-044The Sustainable Restaurant Association is a not-for-profit that started in 2010, and now has over 6,000 member sites nation-wide. The Sunday Times has even nicknamed their rating system the “Michelin Stars of Sustainability“.

The star rating is based on the SRA’s Food Made Good framework, made up of 14 key areas built on three pillars:

  • Sourcing: This category focuses on how food at the university is sourced. This means local and seasonal produce, ethical meat & dairy, environmentally positive farming, sustainable fish and buying fair trade.
  • Society: The society criteria focus on the impacts of food on people: fair treatment of workers, healthy and balanced menus, responsible marketing  and communication with customers, and engagement with the community, e.g. local schools.
  • Environment: This focuses on the environmental impacts food may have:  the supply chain of goods, waste management (including food waste), sustainable workplace resources, improving energy efficiency and saving water.

In the near future, King’s Food will be reviewed in these areas, and if scoring highly, awarded a rating out of three stars. Being part of the programme will help King’s Food to continuously improve sustainability in restaurants at King’s. The university joins a diverse range of SRA members, such as national chains like Wahaca and Jamie’s Italian, a number of universities, and even the Eurostar.

In addition to being a member of the SRA, King’s is currently working towards becoming a Fairtrade University.

Don’t buy it – Warp It!

Last week, King’s re-launched the reuse platform Warp It. Originally opened to staff in 2016, Warp It works like a university-wide Freecycle. Staff can add unwanted furniture, research equipment and more to the online portal. Users can then claim these items for free. This means unwanted, good quality furniture is no longer thrown away. Instead, it is given a new life somewhere else in the university, reducing waste and saving money.

So far at King’s we have:

  • Saved over 17,000kg of CO₂, which would normally arise from waste disposal and buying new items
  • Avoided over 7 tonnes of waste
  • Kept the equivalent of seven cars off the road, and saved 24 trees
  • Saved over £40,000

KCL E&F WARP IT - TWITTER 1 - 1024x512At the moment, Warp It is only open to staff. If you are interested in signing up and start reusing furniture, please visit the internal Warp It pages.

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