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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 internal.kcl.ac.uk/recycling. 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.

Champion Hill win Student Switch Off!

Every year, King’s runs the NUS Student Switch Off competition in its halls of residence. The aim of the competition is to encourage students to save energy. We started the campaign in autumn with visits to every hall, and NUS continued it throughout the year with photo competitions, quizzes and lots of prizes.

At the end of each year, the hall that saved the most energy compared to the previous year wins a delivery of Ben & Jerry’s for their hall. This year, we upped the difficulty and added recycling scores to the mix. So on top of making sure they were energy-efficient, students had to take care with what they put in which bin.

This year, Champion Hill Residence were the lucky winners. They came second in the energy-saving ranking, but due to their great recycling performance they managed to take the overall trophy.

So on a sunny day last week, we headed down to reward Champion Hill residents for their effort. In total, we handed out 400 tubs of Ben & Jerry’s (as well as some vegan soy ice cream) to students! With exam period in full swing, this was a well-deserved break for many residents. See for yourself:

400 tubs of ice cream, ready to be handed out

400 tubs of ice cream, ready to be handed out

Signs at reception to direct students to our giveaway

Signs at reception to direct students to our giveaway

Ice cream time!

Ice cream time!

A sunny day during exam period was the perfect time for an ice cream giveaway/break

A sunny day during exam period was the perfect time for an ice cream giveaway/break

In addition to winning the Student Switch Off, Champion Hill also has a great range of sustainability initiatives. We have previously featured the Champion Hill Wormery on our blog, which exists in addition to composting bins. The courtyard also has a pond and a plot for a planned herb garden. Finally, Champion Hill also has a Combined Heat and Power Plant (CHP) and solar PV panels on the roof, making sure the energy used in the halls comes from more sustainable sources!

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.

Building the Open City

SomersetBeing in the centre of London, our campuses are predominantly urban spaces. However, there are ways sustainability and biodiversity can be built into the city.

To give people the opportunity to find out more about this, Open City have organised Green Sky Thinking.

Green  Sky Thinking is a week-long programme of open events around how to design a more sustainable London. During the week, there are 50+ events, ranging from site visits to presentations.

It runs from the 15th to the 19th May 2017, and registration for sessions is open.

To find out more about the programme, visit the Green Sky Thinking Website.

SPA takes itself to task on sustainability

Laura Westwood SPAThis week’s guest blog comes courtesy of Laura Westwood. Laura is an Internal Auditor within the Directorate of Strategy, Planning & Assurance.

(The views presented do not necessarily reflect those of King’s Sustainability.)


The last couple of months have seen a proliferation of posters and a new recycling bin in the Directorate of Strategy, Planning & Assurance.  Handily located at the tea point, the new bin makes each coffee break an unavoidable opportunity to do our bit – and we’ve additionally committed to using only eco-friendly coffee pods.

Before the bin arrived, we had to walk to the kitchen across the corridor to recycle waste.  Hardly an onerous task, I admit, but when one lunches al desko on rainy days, absent-mindedly favouring the nearest receptacle can become a habit.  I have rescued several stray banana skins from the floor under my desk this week, as I habituate to our personal bin ‘cull’!

When our Directorate Sustainability Champion, Sian, came to the Internal Audit team meeting, the information she shared with us showed that some of the choices we make with good intentions may in fact be ill-informed.  I had been convinced that rinsing my cup under the tap was preferable to leaving it in the dishwasher, but Sian explained that if we avoid using sinks and run one dishwasher cycle per day, our energy efficiency will improve.

My personal good news story is that, confronted with the information on one of our new office posters that King’s produces ten tons of waste each day, I logged into Papercut for the first time and resolved to curtail my printing activities.  I find it much easier to absorb information when I read it on paper, but I’ve made a concerted effort.  My first zero-printing week occurred this month, and I hope for many more.

The next step for the Strategy, Planning & Assurance sustainability team is to advance our ideas for contributing to the local community.  Talks are underway with local organisations to build on the success of previous years’ clothing collections by welcoming homeless guests for a hearty meal served by King’s staff and students.   New and nearly new clothing and accessories are planned to be collected and displayed in ‘retail’ style, so that guests can browse at leisure and select pieces to take away.

All in all, the drive for sustainability in SPA has pushed me to fully accept my duty to demonstrate sustainable behaviours at work.  However insignificant our individual ‘oops’ moments may seem amongst an 8000-strong staff population, they add up to serious environmental impact.  I can no longer gloss over my environmental footprint, because with Sian’s help, it has been laid out in front of me – and I’m thankful for that.

Laura Westwood is an Internal Auditor within the Directorate of Strategy, Planning & Assurance. 

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.

It’s Coffee Week!

This week is UK Coffee Week, so we are taking the chance to talk about some of the great sustainability things happening in the coffee world. The industry often gets bad press, with environmentally damaging and exploitative farming methods, and often wasteful habits at the consumption end (disposable coffee cups, anyone?).

Luckily, there are now many initiatives trying to improve this image, and make the industry more sustainable. Last weekend I visited the London Coffee Festival, and picked up a few interesting things:

UK Coffee Week:

Rather than just an excuse to drink lots of coffee (not that we need an excuse for that…), this is a week-long fundraising campaign by coffee shops all over the country. Participating coffee shops raise money for Project Waterfall, which aims to provide clean water to coffee-growing communities. Coffee is water-intensive to grow, but those growing it often have little access to clean water and sanitation. So far, the project has raised £600,000 and provided clean drinking water to over 24,000 people. Find out more about coffee shops taking part on this map.

Fairtrade and more:

Coffee production is often exploitative and environmentally damaging, but it seems both coffee shops and customers are looking for ways to change this. Among the many coffee shops selling Fairtrade coffee, there are a few that have set up their own, direct trading schemes. As part of the festival, Union Coffee delivered a talk on how they make sure their coffee is from sustainable sources. This includes working with the same producers over many years, paying a premium on top of Fairtrade prices, and training employees to audit their supply chain. Many see this as a win-win situation: farmers receive a stable income and are able to improve their produce to sell it for higher prices in the future, and buyers have reliable sources and increasingly better products. While this might only work as long as consumers are happy to pay higher prices for premium products, it is certainly an interesting new direction.. Other coffee roasters sourcing their coffee directly from producers are Pact Coffee or Cafédirect.

Ditch the disposable cup

Following a lot of media attention in the last few months, disposable coffee cups were a big topic. Hubbub and Simply Cups took their Square Mile Challenge to the London Coffee Festival, installing three of their iconic yellow cup-bins, as well as smaller bins and posters around the venue. With significant quantities of disposable cups given out during the festival, the bins were in high demand!

As well as using the cup recycling facilities, visitors could hear about alternatives to disposable paper cups. Biodegradable and compostable cups were on show, as well as many reusable coffee cups. If you have been to the cafés on campus, you have probably seen the King’s College London KeepCups on sale. They were represented at the London Coffee Festival, and showed off the impressive number of universities that sell branded reusable cups on campus. With many companies now offering reusable cups in all shapes and sizes, disposable cups will hopefully be a thing of the past!

Social Media card - 1Interested to know what happens at King’s? The Maughan Library is currently taking part in the Square Mile Challenge, which is aiming to recycle 500,000 coffee cups by the end of April. If you are having coffee there, make sure you look out for the special coffee cup bins (and watch this space for future developments on other campuses)! King’s Food also offer a discount on hot drinks if you bring your own reusable cup. King’s is also working towards becoming a certified Fairtrade University.

Have an egg-cellent Easter!

Easter is coming up, and we are already looking forward to a long weekend of enjoying the sun and eating chocolate. To make sure everyone, including the environment, is as happy as a bunny, we put together some tips on how you can go the eggs-tra mile to do good this Easter. (No more egg puns, we promise)

Here are our top five Easter tips:
  1. Fairtrade chocolate eggs

What’s better than getting lots of chocolate eggs for Easter? Getting lots of Fairtrade chocolate eggs! Fairtrade ensures that farmers around the world get a fair price for their cocoa, and invests in communities to improve lives.cocoa With more and more companies now offering Fairtrade chocolate, Easter is the perfect opportunity to support the scheme. The Fairtrade Foundation lists a few companies offering Fairtrade Easter eggs this year, but there are plenty more around on supermarket shelves!

  1. Packaging

So, we have eaten all the chocolate, and now we are left with a mountain of wrapping. To prevent this, try to find treats with less packaging. There are now great alternatives to lots and lots of plastic on the market, for example the Eco-Egg by Montezuma’s, which comes plastic-free in biodegradable packaging.

You can also try to upcycle any waste that does arise – Pinterest always has lots of ideas!

  1. Locally sourced food

Everyone loves a good Easter Sunday meal. Why not challenge yourself to make it using locally sourced ingredients this year? Buying from local markets and farmers means your food has travelled less miles on the road – and it gives you a better idea of where your food came from and how it was produced.

  1. Get outside

After all of this ftulipsood, Easter can also be a great time to enjoy the (hopefully) warm weather! With the stressful exam period coming up, making use of green spaces can help clear your mind – even if you don’t have time for extended walks, you could move your workspace outside for a few days. There are plenty of green spaces around London (e.g. Richmond Park, Southwark Park, Primrose Hill, Hampstead Heath etc.), and if you want to get your hands dirty, you can try out some community gardening!

  1. Switch Off

Before you leave King’s, please make sure you switch off anything you don’t need.icon_switch_lights_off This can be anything from kitchen equipment (fridges, microwaves), office equipment (printers, PCs, screens), to lab equipment not in use (please do check with the owner if it is ok to switch off!). In 2015, students and staff at King’s switched off for Easter and saved 95 tonnes of CO₂ – this is the same as taking 18 cars off the road for a whole year.

Join the #SquareMileChallenge!

Today, Hubbub and Simply Cups launch the Square Mile Challenge across the City of London – and as King’s students and staff, you can take part!

Social Media card - 1The aim of the challenge is to recycle half a million paper coffee cups in the month of April. Coffee cups have been getting lots of bad press recently, as seven million of them are thrown away every single day – that’s 4000 a minute! The problem with this mountain of coffee cups is that less than 1% of them are recycled. While they are recyclable in theory, this does not happen in practice. The reason for this is the plastic lining inside the cup, which is almost impossible to separate from the paper. As a result, the coffee cups are either incinerated, or worse, end up in landfill.

So, what can we do about this?

This is where you can help. The Maughan Library will take part in the Square Mile Challenge, which means you will see cup-bins appear. These are specifically for your paper coffee cups. Once full, they are collected by Simply Cups, and taken to specialist recycling facilities. In a unique process of shredding the paper cups and blending them with recycled plastics, a new material is made. This is then turned into a range of things – everything from pencils to park benches. In fact, it only takes 1500 coffee cups to make a park bench!

It does not matter where your coffee cup came from. Starbucks, Pret, Costa, King’s Food – we’ll recycle all of them, as long as they are empty! With exam season fast approaching, we are sure the coffee-drinkers (or tea-drinkers, if that’s more your thing) at the Maughan can help the Square Mile Challenge reach the 500,000 cup goal. We will keep you updated with how many cups we have collected throughout the campaign.

There are five coffee cup bins around the library – two in the Rolls Café, two in the courtyard, and one by reception.

Not at the Maughan? Coffee shops all over the City of London will have special recycling bins throughout April. You can find them here!

If all this talk about 7 million wasted coffee cups made you want to do more than just recycle, it’s worth to bring your own cup. UNSDG #12And not just for the environment – it can save you money too! King’s Food will give you a free hot drink if you buy a KeepCup from them. If you already have one, you get 10p off your drink every time you use it. Starbucks will give you 25p off your drink if you bring your own cup, and Caffe Nero will give you double stamps for your loyalty card.

You can follow what is happening during the Square Mile Challenge by following Hubbub on Twitter, and keeping an eye on the hashtag #SquareMileChallenge.

How to find the least polluted route in London

This week, Spotlight featured the City Air app, developed by the Environmental Research Group at King’s. The app helps users find the least polluted route between two points in the city, using the ERG Nowcasts. You can read the Spotlight article and watch a short video on the app here.

1917496_212679981259_3444746_nIf you want to find out more about air pollution in London, you can check out our three-part series on air pollution, featuring an interview with Tim Baker from the ERG.

You can try out a web version of the City Air app here.

 

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