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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
For 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!
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
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 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.
Our 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
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.
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
At 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.
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:
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. 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!
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!
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.
After all of this food, 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!
Before you leave King’s, please make sure you switch off anything you don’t need. 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.
The conference started with a keynote speech by Amanda MacKenzie OBE, who highlighted the importance of getting everyone involved. When the SDGs were unveiled, she ran a campaign to get word about them out there. One of the key messages of this was the importance of using simple language everyone understands. This is why she refers to the goals as Global Goals rather than SDGs, claiming the term SDGs “sounds like something you would see your doctor about”. By calling them the Global Goals and making them accessible, we should be able to take millions of small, simple actions, together adding up to significant change.
Prior to the event, key partners of the UKSSD sent an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, asking what the government is doing, and will do, to work towards the SDGs. Lord Bates, Minister of State for the Department for International Development, took to the stage to respond on behalf of the government. He claimed that with Brexit, the SDGs can provide an important framework for the UK to face outwards again.
One aspect that was highlighted several times throughout the day was that the SDGs do not only apply to the developing world. Dr Graham Long from the University of Newcastle did extensive research on how the UK is doing compared to the goals – with the conclusion that there is work to be done within the UK too. For example, many see Goal 1 (No poverty) as only applying to the developing world. However, Dr Long showed that over 15% of households live under what is considered the poverty line in the UK. Similarly Goal 2 (Zero hunger) is not only about the absence of hunger – it is also about the presence of good nutrition.
So how can we achieve the goals and targets associated with them?
Dr Jake Reynolds presenting his plan to ‘rewire’ the economy
According to Dr Jake Reynolds from CISL, it is all about ‘rewiring’ the economy. At the moment, sustainable businesses face many challenges, and one could argue that the game is tilted against them. We need to change this to a system where sustainable businesses have the advantage. Dr Reynolds presented his 10-task plan to make this happen, calling to the government, business and the financial sector to implement changes.
Talking about how businesses can have an impact and implement changes, another session focussed on leadership within organisations. While we often talk about wanting change to happen, few of us make changes themselves, and even fewer are ready to lead change.
In the afternoon, John Elkington chaired a panel discussing ‘Transforming lives’. One main point from the discussion was the importance of having a positive message. Mike Barry from Marks & Spencer’s Plan A said that to achieve the SDGs, we need to get people excited about them. Trewin Restorick from Hubbub reinforced this, sharing some of the positive and fun campaigns the charity Hubbub has run over the last year. As they are our next-door neighbours at Somerset House, you might have noticed us sharing some of their great ideas (including #BrightFriday and the Square Mile Challenge we will be taking part in). Another idea that was mentioned during this panel debate was that of Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth – if you have followed our Sustainability Week, you might have heard her speak at our successful Overpopulation vs Overconsumption debate.
Overall, the conference gave attending businesses a good insight into why the SDGs matter, both at home and abroad, as well as how they can support them by promoting them in their organisation. As was repeated many times during the conference, we need everyone involved if we want to stand a chance at achieving the SDGs – this includes government, business, and every single one of us.
With Sustainability Week now in full swing, it is time to recap what happened so far, and what events you can still get involved in.
We asked students what they would do if they were Principal for the day
On Monday and Tuesday we took over the space outside the Great Hall at Strand with our Sustainability Roadshow. Representatives from King’s Money Mentors, Hubbub, Veolia, Thames Plastic, RSPB, EcoSoc, Abe & Cole and Amey joined us for this, and we got the chance to chat to students about sustainability at King’s. Among other things, such as our popular recycling game, we asked students to write down what they would do if they were Principal of King’s for a day. Ideas included switching to clean energy, providing recycling training and banning non-recyclable coffee cups. We will take this feedback and see what we can do about these suggestions to make King’s more sustainable!
Artist Maria Arceo and the Thames Plastic stall
Highlights of other events include our Vegfest, which saw around 100 students try plant-based food (including Sheese!). We also held a bike auction at Strand, during which 16 second-hand bikes found new homes. Dr Bike were also on site to provide bike checks, and will travel with us to the other campuses over the next two days. King’s Careers & Employability ran two successful events on how to start a career in the sustainability sector, giving students the chance to ask sustainability professionals for advice.
If you have missed our events so far, you still have the chance to take part! Sustainability Week lasts until Friday the 10th February, and there are still lots of events coming up.
Tonight, there will be a panel debate on whether overconsumption or overpopulation is the biggest problem we face.
On Thursday, we will take our Sustainability Roadshow to Waterloo Campus. There will also be a Clothes Swap Shop at Waterloo in the morning. In the evening, you can attend a free screening of Tomorrow (2015), or pitch your idea on how to make King’s more sustainable at the Geography Department’s Sustainability Challenge.
Finally, on Friday we move to Denmark Hill for a seminar on why healthcare professionals should care about climate change, and we will bring our Roadshow, bike fixing sessions and Clothes Swap Show with us.
For more information, check out the full schedule here. We are looking forward to seeing you at the remaining events!