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Visit to Bywaters Recycling Centre with UCL Environmental Sustainability

Sharon A James27 April 2017

On the afternoon of 2nd March I went on a visit to Bywaters, London’s largest waste management company, which is situated on the Lea Riverside. This was arranged by Hannah Biggs the Sustainability Communications Officer for UCL Environmental Sustainability. Part of Hannah’s job is to oversee the UCL Green Impact initiative and I attended the visit not only out of interest and to see the facility UCL’s rubbish is sent to but also to meet the criteria for this year’s award. On the day, a group of about 14 of us met at Bidborough House and headed off on the underground together to Bromley-by-Bow.

Bywaters on the Lea Riverside

Bywaters Recycling Centre on the Lea Riverside

When we got there we started off with a talk from David Rumble, Head of Strategic Development, who explained that when London won the 2012 Olympic Games their old property was required for the Olympic Park development. David was involved in relocating Bywaters to the current 9.2 acre site and a unique Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) was commissioned. Before this was installed in 2008 domestic and business customers were asked to segregate their rubbish prior to collection and this could lead to confusion. Using the MRF (affectionately called Merf by the staff) meant that customers could co-mingle their recycling.


MRF close up

The Materials Recovery Facility (MRF)

David explained the sequence of events the MRF goes through and then we did a tour of the facility to see the procedure that is undertaken from when a rubbish delivery arrives to when recycled material is despatched. This starts with rubbish being tipped onto the floor for a visual inspection and to check that it is not contaminated; for example material that is soaking wet will not be accepted for recycling. Also, anything that is in a black bin bag is immediately rejected as rubbish must be in a transparent bag.

Visiting the MRF

The group had to wear hard hats, high visibility jackets and protective eyewear to visit the MRF

The rubbish is then deposited into the first MRF container, a large open topped bin, and sent on a conveyor belt to another bin with bag splitters. After this it moves on a conveyor belt to a cabin in which staff pick out anything hazardous and it then continues around the large facility through a system of conveyor belts, staffed cabins and different containers. The large amount of rubbish at Bywaters means that is highly combustible so in a cabin that has manned control screens there is also a control panel for a large water cannon.

Control cabinWater canon controls

The cabin with manned control screens (top) and the control panel for the water cannon (bottom)

Among other procedures the MRF process includes cardboard being picked up by spikes and ending up in one bin, small items being sieved out and falling onto a conveyor belt below and a magnet picking out metal and depositing it into another bin. A cyclonic system is used to separate small items such as two dimensional shredded paper and three dimensional nuts and bolts before they go to different destinations. The end result is bales of cardboard, paper, various types of plastic and metal and a range of other materials that are delivered to external facilities for processing. For example, crushed glass will go off to make aggregate which is used in the building industry and mixed material items such as Tetra Pak and disposable coffee cups will end up as the filling in padded envelopes.

MRF Conveyor Belts

Cabins have staff filtering material and conveyor belts take various types of waste to different containers

At the end of the afternoon we all returned to the meeting room for tea and snacks and were able to ask any outstanding questions. I learned various things such as that Bywaters were just about to undertake a trial with UCL’s cafes to see if disposable coffee cups could have their plastic inner coating removed so that they could be recycled as high-grade paper. Also, that the centre would love customers to wash their waste before binning it but they have a drip test and as long as stuff doesn’t fall out when it is turned upside down it can be recycled. I asked about receipts and found out that all types can be recycled, including the kind made from thermal paper embedded with chemicals but that polystyrene is classified as one of the worst materials because it cannot be reconstituted. Food waste is sent to a firm called Bio Collectors where it is turned into fertiliser. We were also told that on average UCL recycles 60% of its waste but the aim is to increase this to 85%.

Tea time at Bywaters

Drinks and snacks in the meeting room

In conclusion, we were told that the MRF runs six days a week and processes 130 tons of recycling per year with nothing going to landfill. The 13 tons that cannot be recycled go to an Energy from Waste plant where it is burnt to create electricity. There are also four solar panels on the roof so the centre exports nearly as much energy to the National Grid as it imports. We were informed that because of these innovations Bywaters has set new recycling and waste management standards and that this makes it the most sustainable facility in the world.

Bywaters Reception

Buildings News

Collette E M Lawrence17 November 2016

Appologies for “Buildings News” being off line, we will be starting our weekly updates from today!

Main Library

Heating – Maintenance are continuing to work to isolate the leaking heating eliments within the second floor ceiling in the History corridor. These works should be completed today and there will be some noise disruption while pipes are cut and capped. Once this work is complete the system will be filled and checked for leaks. If no leaks are found the heating will be turned on and will take a couple of days for the building to reach normal temperature.

Hebrew and Jewish Studies – Shelving has been removed and material moved to the corridor to make room for additional study spaces. The library has been awarded funds for new desks, chairs and power in this room, but is waiting for funds to come through. In the mean time we are intending to fit some older furniture to create extra spaces in the short term.

Lift – On Monday 21st November 2016 the Main Lift will be out of service for its ropes to be replaced. This work will start at 5.00pm and should be completed by 11.00pm. Students who require the lift for access can be assisted via the North Junction Physics Lift. Emergency egress procedures remain unchanged.

Science Library

Lighting Project – The replacement of the Science Library lights with new energy efficient LED units is ongoing.  The team are working down the building and have reached the First Floor. Once all the new units have been fitted the brightness levels and controls will be fine tuned, requiring a repeat visit to most spaces. However this second visit will be quick and not cause as much disruption.These works should be completed by Christmas.

Learning Lab Project – The Second phase of the Learning Lab refurbishment will start on Saturday 26th November 2016. Access to the Computer Clusters and Services will be via the First Floor and rear stairs for the duration of this project. Signage and information flyers have been created and will be available to students. A staff help point along with two Self Service kiosks will be placed on the First Floor to assist students. These works will be completed by the 8th January 2017. Equipment and furniture will be removed from this area in the week before the start of the project i.e. next week.

Roof Repairs – The works to repair the roof are now completed and the scaffold has been struck. The team need to clear out Room 416 and make good, so there will be some disruption for the next two weeks. Redecoration is also required in the Research Grid following a leak created by this project. This will be undertaken out of hours in the next few weeks. Date to follow.

Staff Moves

Further updates with regards to this will follow in next weeks blog.

Staff Office Moves – update

Jay Woodhouse2 September 2016

Following the circulation of the initial plan for Post-restructuring staff office moves we have received good feedback from staff and have been reviewing all comments and suggestions. We have highlighted three teams of staff who will have significant changes from the published plan. We have considered changes to be significant if the team was not moving in the original plan or if the team will move to a different building. We will be contacting the managers of the three teams on Monday 5th September to inform them of the proposed changes and these three teams will then have three weeks (ending on the 23rd September) to provide feedback.

We will review the new feedback and then publish a final Staff Office Move Plan. The plan will then be implemented between the end of September and December 2016. A proposed schedule will be circulated to managers at the start of October.

Apologies for the delay in this process. We wanted to ensure the plans would work, rather than rush to undertake staff moves and then find we had to move teams twice. Please bear with us, this is a very complicated move plan with 30 offices and more than 100 staff moving.

Learning about student spaces at the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons

Benjamin Meunier27 March 2015

As the Provost announced today in myUCL, the New Student Centre project is coming along and enabling work will begin this summer.

University of Manchester building

As part of the ongoing design work for the new building, Nicholas Hare Architects arranged a visit to Manchester. Paul Ayris and I joined the design team and colleagues from UCL Estates, ISD and the office of the Vice-Provost (Education & Student Affairs).

The highlight of the day was the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons, with its fantastic varied types of learning space. On paper, it is a very similar proposition to the UCL New Student Centre:

  • 1,000 study spaces dedicated to University of Manchester students, with a range of social learning and quiet study
  • No books, but around 350 computers
  • Managed by the Library on behalf of the University
  • A cafe provides catering through extended hours (to 23.00) during busy times of year
  • Open 24 hours, 363 days a year

Seating area

Computer workroom
They used student artwork as the frosting on glass panes and doors, which was a really neat way of showing off the creativity of the student community as a feature of the building. There were some, not many, examples of artwork which also linked to the University of Manchester’s research, including one themed around the discovery of graphene. I was especially impressed by the way every element in the building had been thoughtfully integrated into the design, right down to the recycling bins built into large cabinets by the staircases…

Recycling bins

Digital signage provided clear and relevant information for users, including adverts for sessions dedicated to fixing personal devices run from their IT Helpdesk. They also had interactive screens, where users could scroll through news items, find out where seats were available in the building and book study rooms: those looked really useful.

It was helpful to see what they have done and hear from the staff there. Our tour guide on the day, the Library Team Supervisor, was excellent and it is clear that the staff in the building are passionate and knowledgeable about the services which they provide. The University of Manchester Library was awarded Customer Service Excellence status, which we are aiming to gain for UCL Library Services as a goal for the current Strategy.

Service desk

Their challenges around lack of space, particularly for staff facilities, echo ours, as we share the constraints of being based in a busy city centre. It was also helpful to hear that at Manchester they would rather have fewer coffee tables and more desk-height learning spaces, which UCL students have also noted in some surveys. I also found it interesting that the number of users who can find available seats is somewhat lower than the number of spaces on paper. The reason for this is that students take possession of booths or group rooms in smaller numbers than there are seats available, and discourage others from entering. Encouraging students to share is something which staff there are working on… They put out extra learning spaces and tables during exam period, to increase capacity.

Aerial view of study area
All in all, the Alan Gilbert Learning Commons is a fabulous building, which fully deserves its plethora of awards, including the Guardian University Awards 2014. One of our big challenges is how we can make the UCL Student Centre even more attractive, with more learning spaces in exam season! To find out more about the New Student Centre, you can visit the dedicated project webpage, or just ask me or Scott Foulon.

Students studying

myUCL: a flurry of news about UCL Library Services

Benjamin Meunier13 March 2015

I am highlighting this week’s edition of myUCL, the weekly newsletter for UCL students, viewable at:


The opening of the UCL Senate House Hub, with its 144 new study spaces for UCL students, features as one of the headline stories. The learning space was designed by Burwell Deakins Architects (the same firm as for the Cruciform Hub) and it incorporates quiet and group working areas. A set of stunning framed images from UCL Special Collections provide a “homely” touch for UCL visitors in the grand Senate House building.










An event for UCL students and staff to find out more about the New Student Centre is scheduled for Wednesday 18 March in the South Cloisters, Wilkins building. The building will provide 1,000 learning spaces, managed by Library Services.





Transcribe Bentham, the crowdsourcing project based around Bentham’s manuscripts in UCL Special Collections, was praised by the German State Secretary for Education. You can find out more about the project and UCL Library Services’ involvement on the Bentham Project webpage.


And finally, if any colleagues are interested in the UCL Teaching & Learning conference, hosted at the UCL Institute of Education on Monday 13 April, you can register now.

UCL East Library

Benjamin Meunier15 January 2015

Dear colleagues,

Shortly before Christmas, I gave this presentation to colleagues in UCL Special Collections on the vision for a new library in UCL East: UCL East 151214

Searching for suitable images of “East London” from our digital library, I found the cartoon below. How things have changed since 1901 and An illustrated history and guide to East London…

East London

UCL East is a tremendous opportunity for us to enhance our Outreach activities, and it will become a real showcase for UCL Special Collections. Current plans are to base about half of UCL Special Collections in a new building on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (QEOP), with a focus on London Social History. The collections and research activity around those will support work on the UCL Grand Challenge of Intercultural Interaction. Local partners around QEOP include the V&A, Smithsonian Institute and a number of London Boroughs.




The new library in UCL East will also provide hundreds of additional study spaces, to support students who will be living on site and the teaching and learning activity which will be happening there.

These slides give a snapshot of what the Library at UCL East might look like. As for the FAQ on my first slide, the answer is that there won’t be a swimming pool in the library… Do get in touch if you are interested in finding out more, or post any comments below.