Author Archive IESA Shift

ByIESA Shift

What we’ve read on the news: Tata Steel cornered after RIVM’s publication on ‘graphite rains’

By: Kirsten Steunenberg.

Wijk aan Zee remains divided


“Graphite rains’ look like little sparkles in the air’, says Kyra, 10 years old, light brown hair, with freckles on her face. ‘It smells really bad. Like something burned.’ After a graphite rain, you can find a dirty layer on the playground equipment of the school’s playground in Wijk aan Zee.


On Tuesday the 4th of June, RIVM (Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment) published a report that stated that metals in graphite rains coming from Tata Steel, are posing health threats to children. Metals such as lead, manganese and vanadium were found in particular high amounts. Children who are repeatedly in contact with the metals are under risk of developing ‘neurological development disorders’.


The village of Wijk aan Zee, 2,200 inhabitants, is close to Tata Steel. The inhabitants are familiar to nuisance by the steel manufacturer, through particulate matter, noise, smell and light. According to the town’s mayor, graphite rains fall ‘more than once a month’. The graphite rains come from Harsco, a company operating on Tata Steel’s grounds, processing its rest products. Harsco now operates in the open air, but a huge hall is being built to transfer the activities indoors. The hall will be finished by April 2020.


Meanwhile, the inhabitants of Wijk aan Zee have mixed opinions on the results of the report. A few women are not surprised that the particles are dangerous: ‘I often have burning eyes and the dust irritates my throat.’ They are annoyed that no one is acting: ‘The whole town is talking about it, except for the people who should solve this.’


But someone else sees that differently: ‘The whole issue is a bit exaggerated. People think we have mountains of graphite over here; that is not the case. No, I do not want to justify all this. It is unacceptable and something needs to happen. But if the graphite rains were really that unhealthy, we would have been dead already. And if Tata stops or leaves, this whole town will be gone.’


Tata creates jobs, both in the factory as for the companies surrounding it. And Tata brings full hotels and restaurants. It is doubted if Wijk aan Zee would have existed without Tata Steel.


So Wijk aan Zee is divided. Parents and teachers remain concerned about the situation. So for now, children like Kyra, will have to thoroughly wash their hands after playing outside.


This article was adapted and translated from three different news articles (in Dutch):


More in English can be read here:


And do you want to know more about other solutions to Tata Steel’s environmental problems? Read our article on the SUISCY project of synthetic kerosene!

ByIESA Shift

Carbon capture and storage: what is holding the Netherlands back?

By Ankita Singhvi.

In order to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, it is generally agreed that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere must remain under 400 ppm. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is a climate mitigation strategy that promises to contribute substantially to keeping CO2 under this limit. The IPCC has stated that the costs of regulating climate change will be twice as high without CCS, and the International Energy Agency adds that it is the most important new strategy for a low-carbon society. Nonetheless, implementation of CCS has met many obstacles over the last decade. There has only been one operational CCS facility in the Netherlands (K12-B CO2 Injection Project), and even that was closed in 2017. This begs the question, what is holding back the deployment of CCS in the Netherlands?


We approached this question by analysing stakeholder expectations about CCS and how the Dutch government has translated these expectations into values and actions. Expectations are important because they do political work; they mobilise resources and script actions into the present. We found that there have been five dominant narratives over the last two decades, and that with each one, the Dutch government has reformulated its values to re-align itself to the relevant stakeholders. Values are the government’s attitude or intentions towards CCS, whereas actions are interventions such as policies, laws or funding.

CCS Table by Ankita | IESA Shift

As the table above shows, we found that the main obstacle for CCS has been the government’s value-action gap (also known as an intention-behavior gap). The government has often failed to take concrete actions that accelerate the development of CCS; there have been subsidies, but no clear laws or policies that suggest a commitment to formalising a place for CCS in meeting low-carbon targets. Without this commitment, stakeholders do not trust that their investment in CCS will be worthwhile. Therefore, we conclude that to accelerate the mainstreaming of CCS, the government needs to explicitly signal that emitting carbon will be consistently expensive enough in the future to justify the deployment of CCS technology.


This article is adapted from a report by: Ankita Singhvi and fellow IE students. It was an assignment from the Closed Loop Supply Chains (CLOSCY) course. The original can be viewed on request.

ByIESA Shift

Fail Forward Heroes of the Thesis Progress Event

by Martijn van Engelenburg.

The evening of the 9th of April. A gathering took place. It was a gathering of recruits. Starting in their journey to get ready for writing their thesis. It’s a daunting task for most of us, and it is a task filled with struggles. That’s why we gathered in Delft, to share our fears and listen to the heroes who made it out alive. Oh and maybe a few drinks to give us some liquid courage, but mostly for the stories.


Failing forward was the theme of the night and expert heroes about failing forward had gone through the struggle the year before, but they all made it out alive.


Nena: Hero of the now

Currently in the process of finishing the thesis, Nena started the evening with being the hero of writing the thesis now. It has been a long fight, but there is just so much work to be done that the hardest thing is to determine the point when you are done. Once you get into writing the thesis, there is so much literature out there that it becomes like a rabbit hole. Deeper and deeper you go, but time doesn’t stand still. Luckily she is almost at the point of finishing, so her struggle will soon be over.


Teun: Hero of the plan

Proper preparation prevents poor performance. That’s what this speech reminded me of. Of course not without bumps in the road, but it can be said that Teun’s thesis flow was pretty smooth. That’s what he stated as well, see it as a 9 to 5, like a normal job you will get after you’re done. Make sure to start early, and get the work in each and every day. Also don’t forget to do stuff to get your mind off of the thesis when you need to. Find a hobby people.


Graham: Hero of the start

An interesting speech this one, for many reasons. Graham took us through the adventure that was her thesis. Filled with emotions and struggles, but in the end also with a great success. The hardest part, was the start. Graham had plenty of ideas at the start of what she wanted to do, but most of those were not found to be matching with ideas of potential supervisors. That’s the lesson from this hero is to find a supervisor first, and then the topic will follow from that expertise. During the studies you will meet plenty of teachers, and there will be some that are more interesting to you than others. Keep track of the interesting ones, and ask them early if they want to supervise you. Your thesis likely won’t be your career, so don’t worry too much on what you do, just do.


Tom: Hero of the rush

Like a proper Leeroy Jenkins, Tom wanted to be done with it. Three months he said for himself, and at the start it looked like it would be three months, but as is thesis life when things go smoothly there will probably be something coming in your way. And as Tom put in many hours, and lots of energy it kind off burns you out on the topic. Motivation will drop, and along with it the energy to work on it. So see it as marathon, not a sprint. Ride the wave of motivation when you have it, but don’t force it.


I hope to join these heroes in the hall of graduates soon with these lessons!

ByIESA Shift

Life after IE: A conversation with Anurag Bhambhani from ‘Energy for Refugees’

by I.G.P. Photo: Roos van Tongeren.

With this issue we want to introduce projects that IE-ers are working on, either after graduation or during their studies. We hope that this gives an idea about the experiences, working environment, fields of research and interest of our fellow students.


Our first chosen project is Energy for Refugees, a project group building PV-systems for the refugee camps on Lesvos in Greece. Energy for Refugees has received a lot of media attention, but in case you want a recap (or an introduction), check out this video:

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We asked some questions to Anurag Bhambhani, one of the initiators and fellow Industrial Ecology student.


Nilli: How was the project initiated in the first place?

Anurag: The TU Energy Club called for applicants who want to work on a project on a refugee camp and they chose us by our applications and motivation letters. Then we started working on a project that was planned on a certain camp in Greece. But it did not really work out because their requirements were different from what could be provided. It was too big for 4 months. So, then we had a talk with the club and said we are going to find our own source, our own contacts. This is how we came in contact with this camp on Lesvos called Pikpa and that’s how we began.

Nilli: What is your specific role and your work?

Anurag: I was selected to be the leader of the club so my basic role was coordinating everything between the teams. Within the team there was a communication team, a technical team and a fundraising team. So, I had to keep track of all these departments and help each team with whatever task they are in and basically assigning work, more like a manager.

Nilli: Who is working together with you? Did you all go to Lesvos together?

Anurag: We were a total of 7, an international team of which most studied sustainable technology. It was interdisciplinary but I was the only one from IE to that time. We all went together leaving around 8th or 9th of July. But while we were on the island our tasks were divided as we worked in shifts and we also had part of the team going around and go finding more sources, more contacts for the next years project. We worked together but not on the same task at the same time.

Nilli: When you were there what was the most emotional moment for you? How was the reaction of the people in the camp?

Anurag: The whole trip was intense emotionally because a lot of things went wrong while we were preparing the 6 months and also while we were there. But of course, as expected the most emotional moment was when we finished. We semi-finished and then we had to leave because our time was over.

The people of the camp were very happy but it is a tricky thing as they did not know that we were going to work there. The reason was that in the last minute we had to change our camp, which was one week after going there. The people who then worked with us from the camp were really interested in this technology and wanted to know more about it, asked questions and supported us with drinks. That was so nice.


Nilli: What kind of problems did you have in the past and how did you manage to overcome these?

Anurag: Communicating with the people in the camp was difficult because none of them had a technical background. We were in contact with an electrician in the old camp, old Pikpa and he didn’t really understand simple things like, ‘what is a flat roof?’. So, when he said flat roof he meant that it is flat but in a triangle form. But he said flat roof so we designed the system based on that idea. But finally, that communication was clarified when we researched through Google Maps.

And then secondly, we were earlier supposed to design a grid connected system, so it could be connected to the grid and whenever the grid power is down it gets power from the panels. But a few months before we figured out that they cannot get a permit. They don’t have any permits. It is tolerated but they cannot get any permits from the municipality or make any connections so we had to shift to an off-grid battery system that increased the costs by 100%.

Thirdly, 10 days before we were supposed to fly we got the news that the camp is being sued and that it had to be closed down. So, we talked to them and they said they could not tell us what was going to happen but the team should just come and they would decide there what should happen. We had 40 panels and 10 batteries so we went anyway had to talk to people and find other camps.

Nilli: What barriers do you see then for future of the project?

Anurag: Barriers will be now less because we have structure, have a name and have experience with problems. Actually, we only have experience with problems. But biggest problem could be communication because when we come from a university we have a fixed mindset of how things should be like specific size or angle etc. but that would often not work out. Even when they say it would, it sometimes does not.

Nilli:   Do you mean that your knowledge is now more applied?

Anurag: That is not only the thing with IE but just every university gives you a framework how to act in real life situations but IE allows you a lot of freedom in what you want to study so I took a lot of electives like all electives that were possible for PV technology and solar energy and IE gives you a place to see perspectives for each renewable technology.

Nilli: What else can you think of that gave you a lot of value for the project?

Anurag: Systems thinking is very important in this project but also in any other large-scale environmental protection project where you deal with so many other factors like social factors such as refugee problems or economic factors because you have to raise money. To see these contacts and connect the problems is something you can learn in our program.

ByIESA Shift

Last chance!

Deadline is April 6, 2019.

We would like to ask your feedback on the Industrialn Ecology programme by filling out the NSE survey. By filling out the survey, you can help to improve the programme. In addition, you can help out other students: for every student who fills out the NSE, Leiden University donates 25 cents to the Student Refugee Fund (UAF).


From the 28th of January till the 7th of April the National Student Survey (NSE) is being held. What do you think of your programme, your teachers, your timetable, the buildings? Raise your voice through the National Student Survey, that is offered to every student by Dutch authorities. Via the survey, you can provide your study programme and your university with information on which education and infrastructure can be improved. You can find the link in your uMail box, but if you lost it, you can log in to with your uMail address. As said for every student who fills out the NSE, Leiden University donates 25 cents to the Student Refugee Fund (UAF).


Thank you very much on behalf of the staff of IE!

ByIESA Shift

Official Start Shift Committees 2019

Interested to join one of Shift’s committees? On Thursday March 14 at 17:30 we will tell you everything about them at Bouwpub (first drinks on Shift). Learn more about the Career Committee, Events Committee, Newsletter Committee and the Study Trip Committee and make sure you get on board! This day marks the official start of the committees of 2019/2020.

ByIESA Shift

Welcome-to-IE Dinner

In order to welcome all our new September students, we have organised a dinner in collaboration with Conscious Kitchen Den Haag on 14 September.

Conscious Kitchen fights food waste by collecting to-be-wasted food and turning it into delicious meals along with volunteers. What better way to get to know your fellow students than by cooking, eating and cleaning together?

Dinner is from 18.30-20.00. Dinner is free if you volunteer to either cook or clean, and 5 euros for everyone else!

In order to join the dinner, you have to sign up here:

ByIESA Shift

Workshop at Metabolic

Get to know Metabolic! On the 19th September, we have organized an excursion to the Metabolic Lab in Amsterdam, as a way to introduce you to one of the companies that puts Industrial Ecology into practice.

The day will consist of a workshop about systems thinking in the form of a game developed by Metabolic then a tour and talk about de Ceuvel, and finally drinks at de Ceuvel cafe to wrap the day up. The workshop is free, but costs of transport will be your own. You can join at Delft station (or get on the same train at Leiden) to go together with a group to Metabolic Lab. Eventually we can organise a group ticket which may save costs.

Workshop is open to IE students only! There is place for 20 people, you can sign up by emailing me at

ByIESA Shift

IE Gala 2018

The Event Committee would like to cordially invite you to enjoy a beautiful spring evening on June 15 2018 at the first ever Shift Industrial Ecology Gala!

The gala will be at Grand Café De Burcht in the heart of Leiden; drinks and (vegetarian) finger food will flow freely all night, and the good times with them. To hear more about the the program and tickets, stay up-to-date on social media. We look forward to seeing you on 15 June for a classy evening in Leiden!

ByIESA Shift

Third edition of DiscoverIE Newsletter released!

Exciting news: another edition of the newsletter has just been published! Want to know more? Just click here to download and enjoy 😀