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Thursday, 28 May

Zero to Landfill at the Southbank

London’s Southbank Centre 21-acre site includes the Grade 1 listed Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and Hayward Gallery. Southbank Centre attracts more than 30 million visitors a year to its site from all over the UK and internationally to take part in its year-round cultural and festival programme. The millions of visitors create around 65 tons of wet and dry waste a week – 3,380 tons a year. Keeping the buildings in pristine condition means that intelligent, safe and hygienic disposal of all that waste is an enormous task.

The waste is created and disposed of 7 days a week but there are enormous peaks and troughs in volume and the type of waste. This depends on which of the many festivals are held and whether the weather is hot or cold as the level of bottled alcoholic drinks or disposable coffee cups increases accordingly. To date refuse has been sorted into wet and dry materials – food waste from its 20 concessions (80% of all site waste), glass and paper.

Wood goes to make chipboard and sterling board, glass to aggregate for road building, polystyrene and plastic bottles have many uses including the manufacture of street furniture, benches and bins.


Mission impossible

Head of Facilities for the past 4 years for this 21 acre estate, Mark Foster, was not happy with 35% of general waste and aimed to increase the recycling figures to minimise this. So, with the support of his management, he set himself ‘mission impossible’ - to increase the amount of recycled materials from 65%-85% over the next three years

Mark’s first job was to ask the incumbent and three other waste contractors to tender and for three to present. The brief requested that that the methods of disposal and transportation of it must be environmentally considerate and to minimise disruption to visitors and in its central London surrounds.


David wins contract against Goliath

The contract was awarded to C&M Recycling and Waste Management Solutions from Ashford, Kent. Mark said: “We finally chose the smallest of all 4 specialist contractors because C&M totally understood and responded to the brief. the company's tender was financially competitive and paid attention to detail.”


The disposal solution

The number of pre-disposal material sorts has increased by introducing new paper and cardboard baling systems to add to the list of other already recycled materials. The remaining items or general waste – disposable hot drink cups, sweet wrappers, cigarette ends and items that cannot be categorised are taken down the Thames by barge to the waste transfer centre at Belvedere where it is burnt and transformed into electricity. C&M has even checked out the burners there and confirm that the air leaving the centre’s chimney is cleaner than London air, because it is sent through a turbo and burnt a second time before emission into the atmosphere.

New compactors and baling equipment have been installed and staff training is underway.


Where there's muck...

Mark is now laying future plans that could turn waste into a financial benefit for the Centre which is of charitable status and dependent on The Arts Council and other funding.

Longer term objectives include obtaining recognition by the Eden Project, reviewing it’s carbon footprint and turning bales of cardboard into cash.

Mike Annett, MD of C&M Recycling and Waste Solutions said: “The old saying ‘where there's muck there's money’ is true today – well, money or energy! The world has spent the last century polluting the environment because it was more convenient than being responsible – now we have to mend our ways and turn our increasing amounts of waste into re-usable materials and stop polluting the atmosphere with hundreds or thousands of lorries transporting waste around the country to an ever decreasing number of pits.”

Other initiatives include the transportation of separated waste at night so as to minimize traffic congestion and air pollution. Eco policies for power and energy are continually monitored and updated where necessary.

Many of the food outlets on site are large national organisations who have their own eco-policies already operating which have already been adopted on site.

The Centre is an active member of the South Bank Employers’ group and active in community issues such as pest control, graffiti management and street cleaning.


Lead by example

Mark’s plan has been to lead by example. Now that the programme is operational and measureable, stage 2 kicks in – training the Centre’s 500 strong direct workforce, 200 contract partners and 200 staff at the food concessions.

He said: “Seeing is believing - my philosophy is to get people involved by setting the example. We can now prove to everyone that we are doing the right thing and now they are buying into the programme and co-operating. I am organising training programmes of small groups for everyone on site. We are even giving them non-sticky posters to illustrate how to separate waste. These will not damage the fabric of the Grade 1 listed building because they have no adhesive – they stick to bins and walls by surface tension – we’ve been very thorough!”

Staff attitude and involvement is deeply embedded in Mark’s management style. Like most senior FMs he is on 24/7 call but he receives few out of hours calls relating to his many responsibilities – cleaning, porterage, reception, security, post room services, logistics, landscape and furnishings. The reason for this is, in his words “Empowering staff and contractors to make decisions keeps us running smoothly. We give everyone plenty of training so they make their own decisions by thinking on their feet and I get very few calls.”

When asked about the enormity of his management brief and wide ranging responsibilities Mark just smiled saying: “We don’t have problems here, some challenges are just bigger than others.”

Picture: The Southbank Centre.

Article written by Peter Vezey


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