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Six ways we’re improving recycling at BGS Keyworth

Sustainability at the BGS site in Keyworth, Nottingham, is being improved by recycling, managing our waste, making our labs more efficient and more...

Nine BGS staff members standing and crouching around the new bug palace, which is made out of wooden pallets and logs, sticks, grass, stones and bricks in a pile.
Buggingham Palace under construction. BGS © UKRI.

From our research and laboratory practices through to the paper we use, the pens we write with and even the food we eat on site — we are committed to thinking about our environmental impact in all areas of our working lives at BGS Keyworth.

The BGS Environmental Sustainability Group brings together colleagues form across our organisation to improve the sustainability of our site and our working practices. This helps us to monitor progress towards environmental sustainability across our operations.

Decreasing waste is one of the ways we are trying to improve our sustainability across our sites, particularly at our headquarters in Keyworth, which hosts around 500 staff. 

Improving our waste management is more than just discarding plastic packaging in the correct bin. Waste reduction is prioritised at BGS in different forms, including reducing the waste we generate, reusing materials and recycling where we can.

We use a waste hierarchy to inform our waste management streams.

Waste management stream. BGS © UKRI
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Waste management hierarchy. BGS © UKRI.

Using this hierarchy, we now have a commitment set out in our sustainability strategy to increase our recycling rates. This not only means that less of our waste ends up in landfill, but that we also benefit from our own waste in more unusual and creative ways!

Here’s just a few ways we’re achieving that. 

Reducing paper printing

Our paper printing has decreased by more than 50 per cent since 2019. This is due to several reasons, such as staff moving to paperless offices.  We have also decommissioned 15 printers across our sites, taking our total from 51 to 36 over that period.

Achieving accredited marks for laboratory efficiency

LEAF accreditation enables BGS to create more sustainable laboratories.
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LEAF accreditation enables BGS to create more sustainable laboratories. LEAF logo courtesy of University College London.

Laboratories are significantly energy intensive and, if practices are not carried out sustainably, they can affect to the environment. BGS enrolled in the Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework (LEAF) initiative, which aims to create more sustainable laboratories and lower carbon emissions through clear actions. These actions help to address areas such as procurement, waste management and equipment efficiency.

As an organisation, we receive awards from LEAF based on how well we measure up against the criteria, which are formally assessed. Some of these actions include installing more energy efficient equipment, such as drying cabinets, recycling laboratory gloves and choosing more sustainable procurement for laboratory equipment.

A glove recycling bin in the laboratories. BGS © UKRI
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A glove recycling bin in the laboratories. BGS © UKRI.

An array of recycling bins are available for staff to use across our Keyworth site, so we can recycle a whole range of materials including plastics, paper, cardboard, paperboard, glass bottles, containers and cans.

To date, 14 lab groups across BGS sites have received silver and bronze LEAF accreditations.

Recycling in the wild

Our BGS Wilding Group has been working hard to carry out sustainable initiatives across our extensive headquarters at Keyworth, where we’re very lucky to be surrounded by beautiful wild and green areas. The group has been reusing wooden pallets and other material that is no longer needed to build spaces for wildlife to thrive.

Bug hotel
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Our grand bug hotel, made out of recycled core boxes, at BGS Keyworth. BGS © UKRI.

We’ve also invited staff to make use of old core boxes, resulting in some wonderful creations: bird boxes, hedgehog houses, planters, signage and key boxes. In 2022, around 116 core boxes and pallets were upcycled. 

Hedgehog house
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Hedgehog house, also made from old core boxes. BGS © UKRI.

Recycling our batteries

Geologists use a vast array of equipment when carrying out research, some of which requires batteries. These batteries are collected for recycling, so that the raw materials can be recovered and reused. We’ve made it easy for staff to be able to drop their batteries in our recycling bins, which are located around the site.

battery recycling
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A battery bin at BGS Keyworth BGS © UKRI

Managing our food waste

Lunchtime at BGS is very popular and sociable, so it’s a great time to encourage staff to think about recycling. We’ve recently introduced a new waste-segregation station in our Keyworth staff canteen, encouraging staff to recycle their food waste and packaging responsibly. Recyclable and non-recyclable waste from here follows the same waste streams as elsewhere across our site and food waste is now anaerobically digested for energy recovery.

Food compost bins are located around our site in office kitchens. Staff can empty these into the food waste bins behind the James Hutton Building and in the canteen, or take them to one of our many compost areas around site for use in our gardening projects.

Canteen recycling
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Waste segregation station in the BGS Keyworth canteen. BGS © UKRI.


Whilst it may go unnoticed, each year, BGS crafts and scribbles its way through huge swathes of pens each year. Instead of them being discarded on someone’s desk or resigned to landfill, we wanted to find a way to do something more.

We recycled a whopping 2.5 kg of used pens in the last year! This includes plastic Biro pens, highlighters, felt tips, fibre-tip pens, ballpoint pens and gel pens. Only glue sticks, rulers and rubbers are not included. The individual components are separated and the materials used to make new pens. 

Pen recycling
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Leah Crosby, BGS Environment and Sustainability Advisor, with pens for recycling. BGS © UKRI.

Making waste work for us

Improving our recycling has been both a strategic and creative process at BGS, helping to embed positive changes to the way we think about recycling. We are working across all our sites and where we can work collaboratively with other site partners to meet our targets.

It’s also important to evaluate and measure the progress we’re making. LEAF is one way we continue to assess our progression and data is sent regularly to UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). We are also working on ways to improve the way we report, to demonstrate our progress and success to staff, and thinking about more ways to involve and empower staff to help us meet our waste reduction targets.

Further information

More information about the BGS Environmental Policy and Sustainability Strategy.

About the authors

Kotryna Savickaite
Kotryna Savickaite

Geochemistry Technician

BGS Keyworth
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