Raising awareness of sustainable development at Middlesex military base

Northwood Headquarters in Middlesex is a military base, home to five operational headquarters. There are over 2000 military and civilian personnel, and support services are provided through a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) by Carillion Plc.

Here, Lynne Potter, Sustainability Advisor for Carillion at Northwood HQ outlines the way that sustainable development (SD) practices and culture are being embedded at the base.


The site was re-built between 2006 and 2011, choosing SITA/Suez as the national contract with Carillion for waste management in 2011. None of SITA’s waste goes to landfill, therefore ensuring that Northwood HQ is a zero waste to landfill site.

Waste from our site that cannot be recycled is shredded to become Solid Recovered Fuel or Refuse Derived Fuel which is then incinerated heating up a water circuit, which then drives turbines, generating electricity that goes into the National Grid.

This process is called Energy Recovery. This is a more sustainable option than landfill, which produces the potent greenhouse gas methane, as well as being unaesthetically pleasing, and requiring large amounts of space.

Energy recovery removes the need for landfill, and substitutes the need for fossil fuels with a local and renewable energy source. 1.5 million megawatts of power and 1.6 million megawatts of heat are sold every year by SITA/Suez.

Plans are currently in place to arrange an off-site visit for personnel from Northwood HQ to visit one of the local energy recovery facilities to see for themselves what happens to some off the waste generated from site.

The waste hierarchy below is followed to reduce, re-use and recycle products to their fullest extent, reducing our General Waste output where possible.

General waste image

  • Awareness campaigns – Climate Week and Sustainability Week’s held annually on site to raise awareness of SD issues, and encourage SD behaviours in the workplace and beyond. Providing events such as fayres with exhibitors demonstrating their products, giving away samples and advice. This can illustrate aspects of the whole waste hierarchy. Use of mock displays of rooms highlighting energy and water savings is another useful feature, and free refreshments is also an attraction!
  • Use plug-in appliances rather than those that reply on batteries to reduce waste.
  • Paper Usage Information is provided at printers to illustrate performance.
  • Presentations held to educate, advise and suggest small behavioural changes that could be made by individual personnel on site.
Dry mixed recycling image
  • Re-usable products to be purchased where possible.
  • Salvation Army bank on site for clothes to be collected and re-used/recycled, or our own Upcycle Shop which takes away potential waste, and the sale of items then contributes to the Northwood Welfare Fund.
  • Sustainability noticeboards around site are updated on events, recycling league table results, and any topical recycling news related to site.
  • General SD updates sent out to site such as new facilities provided and recycling information, and off-site points of interest such as ‘Earth Hour’ to keep topical.

Climate Fayre Week poster

  • Always keeping a General Waste bin and Recycling bin next to each other – so users will be less tempted to dispose of items in simply the nearest bin.
  • Having clear, simple, and colourful pictorial waste signs to correspond with the bins.
  • Have labels on the bins themselves, advertising the importance of avoiding contamination which can result in potentially recyclable items being rejected.
  • Battery boxes available across site and are periodically sent away for recycling.
  • Use of ‘side pods’ which allow disposal of liquids to avoid recycling contamination and general issues with odour and leakages.
  • Have clearly marked compounds for the varying waste streams and monitor for any contamination.
  • Providing talks/presentations on recycling to personnel on Government Greening Targets, national and local level corporate information, and importantly, practical advice – quizzes and chocolate also help with engagement!
  • Regular meetings and correspondence with waste contractor to ensure waste minimisation and recycling progress, and to remain aware of any issues as they arise.
  • Site webpages kept up-to-date with information on Waste and Recycling, SD figures, TRIAD, Water, Energy, Travel, Events and Fun Facts. It is important to keep these updated so that users remain engaged and well informed.

These facilities and procedures assist in the process of minimising waste, increasing recycling, and zero waste to landfill. While keeping these relevant and up-to-date, we are always looking to improve and innovate to gain the best results – for site and for the environment.



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