‘Waste collection: practice what you preach’

TU Delft can do much more to improve sustainability on campus. Facility Management and Real Estate (FMRE) is working with a group of students on measures designed to evaluate and increase sustainability. “What we need is a consistent policy.”

For people at TU Delft who care about sustainability, 18 June 2013 was anything but a good day. It was the day when Studenten voor Morgen (Students for Tomorrow), a student network working to achieve a sustainable future, announced its SustainaBul ranking for the second time: a list of the sustainability scores for 2012 for 13 Dutch universities and 13 universities of applied sciences. TU Delft ended up in 17th place. The only university to achieve a lower score was VU University Amsterdam.

In a similar comparison by NL Agency of that same year – 2012 – TU Delft also performed poorly. In it, NL Agency monitors progress made in the long-term university agreements on energy efficiency. In the categories of ‘primary energy conservation’ from 2009 and ‘use of renewable energy’, TU Delft is again ranked penultimate, with both percentages little more than zero.

Achieve more together

This must be improved, according to FMRE sustainability policy officer Ad Winkels. When Barend Dronkers, a student in sustainable energy technology, approached him in late 2013, they joined forces in the energy consultancy SunSolutions. Dronkers had already set up Smart Campus in mid-October. His aim was to work with a group of students to monitor and increase the level of sustainability on campus. Winkels saw the student initiative as an opportunity to give ‘some real added momentum’ to his own work. “Students tend to work differently and can pursue different routes. If we coordinate the work we’re doing, we can actually achieve more together.”

Winkels, SunSolutions and Dronkers are now working with a group of industrial ecology students on the development of a ‘sustainability assurance system’. They have devised several key areas where they will take a baseline measurement and where students will need to identify what is already being achieved. Then targets will be set and concrete plans made for improving sustainability. The key areas will be: sustainable building, transport, emissions, waste, health and nutrition, use of land and biodiversity, use and recycling of materials, (drinking) water and energy.


For the key area of energy, a memorandum with some ambitious targets is currently being developed. The aim is to ensure that by 2020 energy consumption per square metre is 30% lower than it was in 2005. By then, TU Delft must also meet the target of generating 25% of its own energy by sustainable means. CO2 emissions must have been reduced by 50%.

Winkels explains that measures taken previously mean that these targets are already quite close. For example, the faculties of Civil Engineering and Geosciences (CEG), Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science (EEMCS) and Applied Sciences are to undergo renovations. Computers and lighting are being gradually replaced by energy-efficient systems. Previously, the combined heat and power plant has been fitted with two new boilers that can generate twice as much electricity as before. Collaboration with researchers is set to ensure that the campus becomes a test bed for energy-related research. At the same time and at lower levels – in the various departments and faculties – people are also taking their own initiatives to improve sustainability.

Saving on showers

The Sports & Culture Division (S&C) is one example. In 2012, it switched to fluorescent lighting in the sports halls and LED lighting in the other areas. This reduces its lighting bill by some EUR 6,000. S&C aims to improve the savings still further by reducing external lighting from 1000 W to just 100 W, although this is still under discussion. Since the summer of 2013, the showers have been using only seven litres of water per minute, instead of fifteen. There have been no complaints. S&C is also working with FMRE on a solution to the 40,000 plastic drink bottles that end up in the waste bins every year.

The two TU Delft data centres are another example. The computers now operating there can tolerate higher levels of heat, which means they need less cooling. This reduced the electricity bill by about 16% between 2009 and 2013.

There was also good news this month. TU Delft is being awarded an SDE+ grant for the installation of solar panels on the campus roofs, covering a total area of 1 hectare. Winkels: “We anticipate that we will be able to generate about 1 megawatt ourselves.” This good news is tempered by the disappointment of the Delft Geothermal Project. Minister Kamp has actually prohibited government-owned energy company EBN from investing. This means that TU Delft will need to find funding from elsewhere for the deep drilling that will cost a total of EUR 10 million. As a result, the switch from gas to geothermal energy may be seriously delayed.

Coffee cups

Documents similar to the memorandum on future plans for energy will also need to be compiled for the other key areas. Barend Dronkers is eager to move fast. His students must have completed the first versions by May. Before then, they will have talks both within and outside the University with as many people as possible associated with sustainability, draw up targets and have to find an answer to the question of how the impact of any future measures should be assessed.

“The documents they will write will need to be extremely specific,” believes Dronkers. “There will also need to be annual updates, so that we know where we stand.” Winkels is delighted with all the action so far. “We are lagging behind in the rankings. A lot of progress is already being made, but we do not yet have any consistent policy. That is something we certainly need.”

Expert in waste segregation ir. Jan Henk Welink (3mE) completely agrees. He is one of the key people Dronkers and his students want to speak to. He believes that waste collection on the campus is ‘letting the side down’. Welink has been commissioned by the province of Noord-Holland to test various methods for dealing with industrial waste. He also intends to conduct the same tests at TU Delft. “My motto is: practice what you preach.”


He also has some tips for the memorandum on waste. “We can adopt a much more sensible approach to waste on campus,” says Welink. “Everyone understands how energy conservation works, but no one knows how to reduce waste. We work with suppliers of refuse containers and pay them for collecting the containers. The problem is, if we do not offer up our waste in a compact form, they need to come back several times for the same weight that could fit in a single truck. We can do something to reduce the volume. Think of all the coffee cups. They take up a lot of room if you do not stack them inside each other.”

Welink wants to do away with the waste bins in the rooms. He is particularly irritated by the often virtually empty bin bags that the cleaners have to make real efforts to remove. “The result of all of this is excessive volume. People should have to dispose of all the waste in the kitchens. They could then separate the waste straight away. The coffee cups can be stacked in a special container. The added advantage is that people would have to walk more, which is something that the government would like to see happen. Too much sitting down is not good for you: you often hear people say ‘sitting is the new smoking’.”

Someone else who is keen to contribute ideas to help Dronkers and Winkels is Jeroen Boerrigter, S&C’s hospitality and catering manager. He hopes to improve the sustainability of his menu, where possible. The organic hamburgers, organic steak and roast beef all come from the local farm, Hoeve Biesland. The menu also features vegetarian tuna salad and Puro fair trade coffee.

In future tenders, he hopes to include criteria for sustainability, explains Boerrigter. “I think that matters. It reflects what students want for the future and the image of the University. I believe that success in making purchasing sustainable comes down to setting clear and measurable targets. And you need to meet those targets, just like your financial targets.” Ad Winkels believes that Sodexo should apply the same approach. “This can be done much more widely. If not, we will just do it ourselves.”

Dented image

Doing it herself is precisely what Industrial Design Engineering student Ilonka Boerkamp has in mind. She is on the honours track for talented Bachelor’s students. For the course in personal leadership, Boerkamp, Architecture student Finn Dahlke and four fellow students devised a cycle lane that generates electricity. Taking inspiration from the energy-generating dance floor, this would involve installing tiles in busy areas on the cycle lane in Mekelpark that convert vibration into energy. The students have already found a British company that could manufacture these kinds of tiles. “If we have our way, this cycle lane will definitely happen,” says Boerkamp. “We also intend to pursue it further after the course.”

According to the students’ calculations, the street lights along the cycle lane could run for 12 hours if the tiles were fitted in just one place. If they were installed in five places, the energy could even be used to feed the grid. Above all, the cycle lane is good for TU Delft’s image. Dahlke: “The most important thing for us is for TU Delft to become sustainable itself. It certainly isn’t at the moment. Yet there is so much research and teaching going on here on that very subject. It undermines the University’s image.”

The poor sustainability rankings of recent years have definitely dented that image. Although many plans are still under development and numerous initiatives have yet to be agreed, Winkels and Dronkers believe that they will be able to reach the top 10 in the SustainaBul ranking as early as this year. They even think that they can make significant progress simply by completing the questionnaire more effectively.

Studenten voor Morgen chair Sybren Bosch also believes that TU Delft is capable of achieving it, even though the 2014 ranking actually relates to 2013. “Education and research have been given additional weighting this year, compared to previous editions. That should work in TU Delft’s favour, with all its technological education and numerous sustainable projects. It will however be important to ensure that sustainability is emphasised more prominently and the Smart Campus monitoring model can play an important role in that. The University is making good progress in many areas. Now it is a case of ensuring that we communicate this to the outside world.”

The SustainaBul will be awarded on 11 June.


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