Waste not, want not at TfL

29th May 2015


Related Topics

Related tags

  • Business & Industry ,
  • Transport ,
  • Recycling



Helen Woolston describes how Transport for London is rethinking its approach to waste

Transport for London (TfL) is adopting a more enlightened and strategic approach to its "waste". By setting itself goals, it is moving away from simply managing waste to an approach that can best be described as "responsible resource use".

TfL's remit includes a responsibility to support London's sustainable growth. With a growing population, the transport services provider has to ensure the capital continues to have a modern, fast and sustainable system that can help the city be a liveable one. It has a multi-billion pound modernisation programme, and is now working with its partners on constructing the new extension to the Northern Line underground route, improving the area around Victoria railway station, and rebuilding Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road tube stations.

Rebuilding and renewal

Construction and renewal on this scale means that resource management is a significant feature of the work. In 2014, TfL projects generated about 3 million tonnes of commercial, demolition and excavation waste (including Crossrail). Over the same period, its operations produced 46,600 tonnes of commercial waste from customers, offices, depots and garages.

Some TfL businesses have a good record, recycling up to 99% of waste materials, but in such a large, complex organisation, TfL acknowledges that more can be done to share good practice. Although the amount of unwanted materials produced depends on the nature of the work being carried out, opportunities for designing out waste and reusing and recycling apply to all TfL construction projects.

TfL's main offices - including 55 Broadway above St James's Park tube station and at Pier Walk, near the O2 arena on Greenwich Peninsula - achieve the Defra good practice annual water consumption target of 6m3 per full-time equivalent (FTE) employee. They also achieve recycling rates of 62% and are all working towards a target of 75%.

TfL is part of the Greater London Authority and supports the delivery of the Mayor of London's transport strategy and the capital's environment strategy (LES). The business waste element of the LES demands that 70% of commercial and 95% of construction waste be reused and recycled by 2025. TfL has set out its vision for moving from waste to resource management in the organisation's corporate environmental framework and consists of objectives, targets and a delivery programme (see below).

Theory into practice

The modernisation and expansion of Bond Street and Tottenham Court Road underground stations in preparation for Crossrail - which passes through central London, linking Heathrow and Reading to the west with Abbey Wood and Shenfield in the east - provides an example of TfL putting into practice its ambitions for resource management. The principal contractors, Taylor Woodrow Bam Nuttall at Tottenham Court Road and Costain Laing O'Rourke at Bond Street, have been set a target to divert construction and demolition associated waste from landfill. Buildings around the stations have been demolished, while public utilities and highways have been diverted at street level. All of this work has created numerous waste streams.

The environment management teams at the principal contractors must consider the fundamental principles associated with the waste hierarchy, from prevention to disposal. This involves working closely with the engineering and design teams as well as subcontractors to ensure waste creation is avoided, reduced or reused. At Bond Street, 64,239 tonnes of waste/resource had been created by February 2015. Of this, 63,726 tonnes - or 99.12% - have been diverted from landfill.

By applying the waste hierarchy, numerous ways of beneficially using resources have been developed. The Bond Street environment team agreed with Crossrail to send 17,555 tonnes of excavated material to Wallasea Island in Essex to be used in developing a nature reserve for migratory wildlife and assist in making the area more resilient to the impacts of climate change, such as sea-level rise. The Bond Street team also sent construction waste to Caddington golf club in Bedfordshire as part of a redevelopment and extension project.

Tottenham Court Road has generated 160,000 tonnes of excavated waste since 2010. All of the uncontaminated waste has been used for land reclamation. Of the 5,000 tonnes of construction waste generated at the station, 95% has been recycled. For example, straw required for filtering excess water during tunnel excavation was donated to London Zoo.

The environment teams at both stations have also formed a relationship with the National Community Wood Recycling (NCWR) project, which reuses and recycles wood and creates work for disadvantaged people. So far about 50 tonnes of timber have been passed to the project. The material is put to various uses, including shelving units, garden planters and chicken huts, and even a nightclub bar.

Measures to increase recycling rates across the sites include removing from TfL offices all individual bins that used to sit below the desks, and sending them to a school in Southwark where they are used as flowerpots. To assist with the reuse, waste skips onsite are segregated into wood, metal and mixed construction waste. Each skip is properly signed and workers are briefed regularly on enhancing waste segregation.

Office waste is segregated into dry recyclables, general waste and food waste. The food waste is taken to an anaerobic digestion and waste management facility and used to generate either electricity or compost. Aerosol cans are pierced onsite and containers disposed of as metal. Some aggregates have been reused for temporary works at the site. General waste is turned into refuse-derived fuel and dry recyclables are sent to a material recovery facility for segregation, where the material is baled and sent for to be reprocessed for reuse.

The environment teams at both construction sites have established resource efficiency communications programmes. The focus of these includes promoting use of materials before they reach their expiry date and raising awareness of the cost of resources and disposal.

Going online

TfL concedes that it has been a challenge to obtain and verify that all waste data is complete, which is why it is now rolling out use of Smartwaste, BRE's flexible online reporting platform. TfL is also examining some of the legal issues that have surfaced, such as when discarded material becomes classed as waste, case law and the Environment Agency's statement of regulation. This sets out the basic rules businesses carrying out certain activities must follow to prevent pollution.

TfL's experience shows that having a strong vision with senior management support is crucial when communicating targets to local businesses and sites.

Keeping London moving

Transport for London (TfL) keeps the capital moving by running the underground, Docklands Light Railway, trams, rail, bus, river, Victoria coach station and Dial-a-Ride services. It also maintains and develops London's red route streets and, through its schemes and policies, promotes walking, cycling and the greater use of low-emission vehicles. TfL is also involved in planning new transport schemes and projects, such as river crossings and the Crossrail 2 north-south link, which aim to help achieve the Mayor of London's environmental strategic goals for the capital.

5 tips from TfL on achieving resource goals

  • Have a strong vision or policy - cutting waste to landfill and proactively considering waste as a resource.
  • Include as part of key business processes (such as a construction project management system) - setting out zero waste to landfill early as a project requirement. Setting up a resource management plan. Sharing materials and reuse contacts between sites and parts of the organisation.
  • Practical measurement - Use tools, such as Wrap and Smartwaste, to record materials and help track progress
  • Practical onsite measures - segregated materials storage, having secure space for a materials storage compound, for example.
  • Communicating results - reporting and communicating progress against the targets is influential in generating support. TfL includes waste and resource data in its scorecards, reports to the board and annual report.

TfL's resource management vision


  • TfL will continue to minimise generation of waste as far as possible.
  • For any waste still generated, TfL will develop a normalised target for reduction, for example per project spend or passenger kilometre.
  • TfL will develop a target for reducing hazardous waste.
  • TfL will prioritise reuse of resources and maximise opportunities for recycling unavoidable waste, using innovation and new systems where practical.
  • TfL will optimise opportunities to recover energy from remaining waste.
  • TfL will continue to purchase reused materials or those with a high-recycle content.


  • TfL will reuse, recover and recycle 99% of non-hazardous waste, with interim targets of 30% for recovery by 2031 - in line with the London Plan, which sets out a strategy for the capital.
  • TfL head offices will aim to achieve a shift from current Defra good practice performance of 6m3 water consumption per full-time equivalent (FTE) employee to the environment department's best practice of 4m3 per FTE employee.

TfL will achieve these targets by:

  • Designing out waste in construction.
  • Delivering a reduction programme for hazardous waste.
  • Continuing to invest in low-use and recycled water technologies.
  • Developing a system to quantify how much is spent on having its waste treated, recycled and disposed of. This will help TfL target priorities for where to reduce waste.
  • Creating a waste exchange process for the organisation and its contractors.
  • Requiring large capital projects and programmes to achieve external sustainable building or infrastructure certification, equivalent to BREEAM "very good" or "excellent" where possible.
  • Measuring and reporting annually on progress made towards achieving the targets and key programme delivery.

Helen Woolston, MIEMA, is sustainability coordinator at Transport for London.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

Four in five shoppers willing to pay ‘sustainability premium’

Despite cost-of-living concerns, four-fifths of shoppers are willing to pay more for sustainably produced or sourced goods, a global survey has found.

16th May 2024

Read more

One in five UK food businesses are not prepared for EU Deforestation Regulation (EUDR) coming into force in December, a new survey has uncovered.

16th May 2024

Read more

Each person in the UK throws a shocking 35 items of unwanted clothes and textiles into general waste every year on average, according to a new report from WRAP.

2nd May 2024

Read more

The largest-ever research initiative of its kind has been launched this week to establish a benchmark for the private sector’s contribution to the UK’s 2050 net-zero target.

2nd May 2024

Read more

Weather-related damage to homes and businesses saw insurance claims hit a record high in the UK last year following a succession of storms.

18th April 2024

Read more

The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) has issued a statement clarifying that no changes have been made to its stance on offsetting scope 3 emissions following a backlash.

16th April 2024

Read more

One of the world’s most influential management thinkers, Andrew Winston sees many reasons for hope as pessimism looms large in sustainability. Huw Morris reports

4th April 2024

Read more

Vanessa Champion reveals how biophilic design can help you meet your environmental, social and governance goals

4th April 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close