Guest Column: Lewisham's Domestic Waste Strategy

Nigel Tyrell, Head of Environment, LB Lewisham on smaller bins, reducing waste, encouraging recycling and a new service for disposing of mattresses:

Brockely Central readers will be aware that the authority has been investing heavily in additional waste management services over the past ten years. Although ‘recycling’ is cited as the key activity in relation to sustainable waste management, Lewisham operates within a broader regulatory framework. The Waste Hierarchy (shown in this diagram) dictates how we should structure our services and focus attention on those activities closest to the top of the pyramid.



Naturally enough, our emphasis should be on reducing the amount of waste produced. That’s why, for example, the authority has allocated funds to replace the current 240 litre wheelie bins with smaller, 180 litre bins. We’ll be using most of these old 240 litre bins as containers for residents’ dry recyclables. So the aim here is to increase the amount of waste recycled, but reduce the overall amount of waste collected. We’ve done pretty well with this, over the past few years, the amount of waste produced per head of the population in Lewisham has reduced from 470 kg in 2005/06 to 430 kg in 2008/09. We’ve been encouraging residents to compost food and garden waste at home. Since 2004 we’ve distributed 7473 home composters. We know that this is one of the best ways of sustainable waste management, but this approach can distort how the borough’s performance is measured.

Despite improvements in our published recycling performance since 2002/3 when our recycling rate was 7.3% (latest reported figures for 2008/9 are 20.55%), you will be aware that Lewisham has been compared unfavourably with some other authorities. Recycling targets lump together garden waste and dry recyclables. Of course, some garden waste is very heavy, so if we decided to collect garden waste from the doorstep, our recycling performance would look a lot better. You will find, that if you were to strip-out the garden waste element from apparently higher performing recycling authorities, Lewisham compares very favourably. We’re also not able to include any of the materials that are recycled after they’ve passed through the SELCHP incineration plant such as ash and metal in the first 6 months of 2009/10 - 21,827 tonnes of ash and 1,249 tonnes of metal were recycled. We’re also not allowed to include any business waste figures in our recycling performance, so however many bottles, or however much cardboard we collect from Lewisham shops, none of it should hit our recycling figures.

Nationally, of course, recycling is given prominence as most authorities landfill a high proportion of their waste, and as landfill sites start to run out, recycling is a good way of diverting waste from landfill. Lewisham landfills less than most other authorities. With a landfill rate at around 7% (2008/9) Lewisham currently has one of the lowest rates in the country (compared to elsewhere in the country where rates reach as high as 83%).

It is claimed that having an incinerator in the borough is the key disincentive to increased recycling, but elsewhere incineration operates alongside high recycling rates. Germany, for example, recycles and incinerates a higher proportion of waste than the UK. Lewisham’s waste helps to generate (via SELCHP) electricity for London. Electricity that otherwise might have been generated using fossil fuel.

Additional recycling services are hugely expensive, and it’s only right that Lewisham evaluates the environmental impact and value for money of proposed service changes. Take garden waste (again) for example. There’s a lot of resident interest in the borough offering doorstep garden waste collections. How would this rate in terms of VFM and environmental benefits? It would cost in the region of £1.5 million to provide extra bins and trucks to collect garden waste on a weekly or fortnightly basis. This waste would need to be separately collected and transferred to an anaerobic digestion facility for example, and turned into fertiliser and bio-fuel, which in turn, could run a generator to produce electricity. So the end result of all this expenditure could be production of the same electricity that the green waste would produce if it were incinerated at SECLHP (only with less trucks, bins and traffic). Now that’s not an invitation to put green waste in your wheelie bin, and there are still some net environmental benefits of sending green waste to an anaerobic digestion facility, but it’s arguably better to keep this stuff out of the waste stream altogether and compost it in your own garden.

Collecting garden waste would really bump-up our recorded recycling performance. It would be very popular with lots of residents. It would have some positive environmental benefits.

The question is, does it represent the best way of using your money to deliver the most positive results? Our Waste Strategy has prioritised waste reduction and the increased use of existing recycling facilities, but also made several improvements in the way we deal with green waste. This year we established a number of sites around the borough where residents could bring their garden waste. This waste was taken and composted. Green waste from our parks and cemeteries is also composted. This year we collected and composted leaves from all of our public housing estates. Next year we intend to collect and compost all the leaves we collect from Lewisham’s streets.

The Waste Hierarchy frames our approach to the thorny issue of collecting bulky household waste, such as sofa’s and armchairs. Should Lewisham charge separately for bulky household waste collections? Has the separate charge for bulky household waste led to increased fly-tipping? Firstly, I think it’s important to refer to the service as ‘separately charged‘ rather than ‘free’. ‘Free’, as we know, is another way of describing a charge that is distributed through the Council Tax.

Charging for bulky household waste was reintroduced in Lewisham around April 2002. Charging had been suspended while the borough was building the new Reuse and Recycling Centre at Landmann Way. We currently charge £15 for 3 items, this charge has remained the same since 2002. During the period where charges were suspended, Lewisham’s household waste increased by 9%! This increase in household waste, in turn, pushed up our use of landfill and dampened our recycling performance. There was no drop in the amount of fly-tipping either. In fact, in the first year charges were re-introduced, fly-tipping actually fell. Colleagues in other authorities have reported similar problems with ‘free’ bulky waste services.

I believe that encouraging residents to think that the impact of waste is ‘free’ either financially or environmentally is wrong and encouraged a huge influx of waste from a variety of sources. There seems to be an infinite ability to generate waste to fit available disposal facilities. Anyone who has ever hired a skip and left it outside their house overnight and woken to find it filled with other people’s waste will know what I mean! Then there’s the attitude of, “Well it’s free anyway, why should I bother to wait for it to be collected, I’ll just dump it on the pavement”. I know that our good performance in removing fly-tipping has facilitated a similar attitude, but still, nowhere near the scale of the problem created back in 2001. Then we had increased fly-tipping AND a huge surge in household waste. It was also very, very expensive. We try to use your money to deliver the most effective waste management results. This approach is, we hope, demonstrated by a new service we introduced this month, which aims to deal with bulky waste, reduce landfill and increase recycling.

I was interested to see the comments on our work with local student, Tom Ashworth, and this service responds to some of the concerns about our bulky lumber service and fly-tipping.

You will be aware of the particular problem we have with mattresses being left on the streets of Lewisham. Over 6,000 mattresses were dumped on the streets between August 2009 and January 2010, which have up until now been sent to landfill. Lewisham Council is to become the first local authority to introduce a mattress recycling service to help Lewisham residents dispose of their mattresses in a convenient and environmentally-friendly way.

The new initiative will divert mattresses away from landfill . A local business, “Matt UK”, will be dealing with the borough’s unwanted mattresses. It decided to set up a mattress recycling plant when it realised it was handling up to 400 mattresses a day. The company recycles up to 97% of the contents of a mattress. First of all it shreds the mattresses and then the fabric material is separated from the metal into piles of foam, felt, cotton and polyester. The metal is sold to European Metal Recycling for reprocessing and the foam can be reused in insulation, while the felt, cotton and polyester can be reused in other textile applications. The material is then washed in an industrial washing machine at 40 degrees to remove any mites from the fabric.


This innovative scheme encourages people to dispose of mattresses responsibly, it diverts away from landfill, and it increases recycling in the borough. I think it’s a win-win for everyone.

To use the service, residents can obtain a special sticker from any local Lewisham library or from Lewisham Council's Access Point in Laurence House, Catford. The sticker is then placed on the mattress.

The mattress will be collected on the same day as scheduled refuse and recycling collections. Residents just need to make sure the mattress, preferably with sticker attached, is placed near their refuse bin the evening before collection day.

Councillor Susan Wise, the Cabinet Member for Customer Services, is please with this new service: “Lewisham's new mattress recycling service is a great idea, very simple to use and it's free. I would encourage anyone who's thinking about throwing away an old mattress to take advantage of this very useful new service."

I really hope that BrockleyCentral readers will recognise this new service as another useful step towards sustainable waste management. Let me know what you think (as if I needed to ask!).

My Blog:
http://lovelewisham.wordpress.com/

68 comments:

Jim Jepps said...

I thought this was really useful - thanks!

Tressillian James said...

Great article. Also glad Lewisham aren't going to introduce brown bins for garden waste. I think there are enough options already - ie. compost in your own backyard or take it to the tip, or a specially located site.

maxink said...

Thanks Nigel. Great initiative for the mattresses. And of course kudos for the openness.

Nigel, you are probably aware that I've investigated issues around recycling of kitchen waste (what the Daily Mail elegantly calls the slop bag).
According to answers I received from Council (thanks) it appears that kitchen waste amounts to about 30% of collected household waste, it costs £1.2m in gate fees at SELCHP and being largely made out of water it hampers the efficiency of the SELCHP with a loss of potential earning from the sale of energy produced on site of about £2.5m.
I had suggested that those money could be used to pay for a composting service, generating a good number of local jobs too but at last Council was told that there are contractual and legal barriers that prevent a switch from incineration to composting but no detail of what these barriers are was given.
Can you please explain what these barriers are and what proposals are you considering to deal with kitchen waste in the future?

Nigel Tyrell said...

Hi Max, I was interested in your proposals and I think (hope!) we offerred to sit down with you and talk through some of the assumptions. As for future plans on Kitchen Waste, my understanding is that we've shown support to Greenwich in their bid to build a AD plant in the borough (there's a bit more detail in the waste Strategy, I think). The really big issue for Lewisham is our fragile waste infrastructure (we could really do with our own Waste Transfer Station, that would also help bump-up our recycling rates), so our future plans will need to involve close work with our neighbouring boroughs, particularly Southwark and Greenwich. But please take up the offer to come and discuss your ideas with us. Nigel

Anonymous said...

Yeah. Neat idea, but tell me how you are meant to compost when you live in a flat (as I suspect many of us do), with no access to a garden? Do I need to have a wormery in my bedroom or sumfing?

maxink said...

Hi Nigel, yes, I was offered to come round to discuss this and gladly accepted the invitation. I'll drop you a line now to arrange a date.

The Cat Man said...

can we talk about house prices?

drakefell debaser said...

Thanks Nigel, some good proposals particularly the mattress recycling idea which I think is excellent not only as an easy way to get rid of them but also turning the beasts into something useful.

Is there a time frame for the new smaller black bins?

Anonymous said...

With the introduction of the new smaller black bins - does the council not think that more people will either dump their rubbish or use other people's rubbish bins?

drakefell debaser said...

Good point, the council should give you the choice to have the bin to suit your lifestyle.

Those on the smaller bins should then pay less council tax given the smaller impact to the environment.

Headhunter said...

I live in a building converted into 4 flats with 2 people in each. We only ever seem to use 1 to 1½ of those grey bins between the lot of us per week. Aren't we good?

Interesting article though. Good to see that so much thought is being put into this in Lewisham

graeme said...

What gets me about the bins is that my building (divided into 4 flats) has to share one grey and one green among 3 flats whose occupancy has varied in the last year between 2 and eight people, whereas the remaining flat which has its own entrance at the back of the building, gets its own pair of bins.

And don't get me started on who always ends up collecting the f*ckers from the roadside after they're emptied.

Anonymous said...

We have real problems with our bins. We are 4 flats in a house and had 4 black bins and 4 green boxes, the boxes kept being stolen so we asked for a green bin. We have now had 3 black bins and 2 green bins stolen so are left with 1 black bin a 2 green boxes between 4 flats. It is crazy. Over Christmas someone even took away the remaining black bin and then it appeared back on collection day absolutely full.

Tamsin said...

My only issue with SLCHP is the chemical taint on the air. The cleaners in those chimneys do not always work as well as they could do.
And, of course, when it was being built the then Councillors assured us that before and after studies of air quality were being done for the 500 (or was it 1000) metres around the plant and just could not take on board the concerns of people in Telegraph Hill, further away but right on the level with the tops of the chimneys.

M said...

Our big green bin was stolen a while back. I called the council and they replaced it although it took a few weeks.

Who steals a bin?

Nigel Tyrell said...

Q:Is there a time frame for the new smaller black bins?

A: We already use smaller black bins on our bin replacement programme and to further support this additional funding has been received to roll out some smaller black bins to approximately 20,000 households in the first tranches of a rollout. The Council is currently going through a tender process for the purchasing of bins [This should be going to Mayor and Cabinet on 10th Feb] and once that is complete then the purchasing and roll out will begin. It is anticipated that with the amount of smaller black bins already in use and with the new ones distributed, approx 45% of the borough's street properties will be using the 180l bins. But let me know if you'd like me to try and get yours swapped over...

Andrew Brown said...

I've got a smaller bin, and for our family (of 2 adults and 2 kids) it works just fine.

Headhunter said...

The binmen stick out bins all over the street after emptying and we never seem to have the same bins twice, so perhaps it's just a case of the bins getting mixed up between households rather than stolen?

Cherry said...

Thanks for this post - I'm glad that Lewisham is thinking carefully about this issue.

However, I would like to re-raise the point by anonymous: "how you are meant to compost when you live in a flat (as I suspect many of us do), with no access to a garden?". In my old house, of the 13 occupants, I think only two had access to the garden. I would welcome a brown bin (or something smaller and less intrusive).

Tressillian James says that you can take waste to the tip, but I don't have a car, so it's not really possible.

Also: how do the council decide how many bins the house should have? I now live in a small conversion (one flat upstairs, one downstairs) and we have one black bin and one green bin - in our old house, converted into six flats, there were five black bins. One black bin and one green is just about fine between four residents, but I don't think it would be easy if they got any smaller however much we try to recycle.

tyrwhitt ali said...

We've got quite a few bins round mine but then my upstairs neighbour just kept reporting our bins missing until we had enough...

I find have your number written on them stops them going wandering too much!

Hammie said...

Most people probably haven't realised that these smaller bins have been around for quite a while now.

People might start moaning about it now that they know, but most people will just carry on regardless as its not really that noticeable. And if it is, shouldn't you think about reducing your waste?

drakefell debaser said...

@ Nigel. Thanks, and yes, I would be interested in smaller bins because we have a 240 litre bin for each flat and one is never used.

I need to check with the neighbours first in case I start a bin war but can I contact you via your blog / twitter if they agree?

Anonymous said...

Why do some people think its acceptable to leave their wheelie bin on the pavement rather than outside their house? (I am only talking about roads where this is possible, not on raods like drakefell or shardeloes for example). What is the council doing to enforce this and keeping pavements clear?

creepylesbo said...

The council already stole my large wheelie bin after I tried to dispose of garden waste in it. They didn't have the 'get rid of garden waste at the top of Telegraph Hill' scheme that happens on a Saturday then, but it's of little use to me anyway since I work Saturdays and am not able to bring my stuff up there. Shared flats use a lot of the wheelie bins, even if you recycle everything you can and hardly throw out anything. PS does anyone know of anywhere that takes batteries for safe disposal as Currys stopped doing it?

maxink said...

Batteries at libraries.

tyrwhitt ali said...

Creepylesbo, whilst you're at the libraries, you can buy some of the green bags for your garden waste. Then you just need to phone the council and they'll come and pick them up at your convenience.

angelofthewest said...

Nigel thanks for an excellent post. I was glad to find out about waste issues -- and I have to say, equally glad that my council is starting to lose its squeamishness about these new-fangled InterWebs that all the kids are using. See what Nigel did there fellas? its not so scary, now, is it?

On composting when you live in a flat: I'm in 4-flat conversion; I have access to garden and I compost. I would love it if others contributed to my compost heap! Just a few simple guidelines: no flesh, no processed/cooked foods, no citrus peel, and we're off! I wish people felt more comfortable seeking solutions within their community. Its people-power! The council isn't here to solve every last problem - its here to coordinate where it makes sense to have system-level solutions (like, mattress dumping). But composting? in leafy Brockley? Surely we can manage that without recourse to precious municipal funds.

Don't ruin the streets said...

Not so sure aobut the council reducing the size of the bins; after all, we pay for waste removal. Not so sure about how the pyramid is being interpreted either, that shows the main strategy is prevention. I agree that is it prevention, but the council shouldn't be preventing us from discarding waste. Waste and rubbish is exactly that. Surely we should be looking at manufacturers not creating the packaging that contributes to this waste. Waste prevention should start at the top, not with he council telling us to hang on to it.

Smaller bins will not reduce the amount of rubish people want to throw away. The amount of rubbish I have today will be the same as I have tomorrow. Nor will it reduce the councils waste load into the incinerator. They'll just be picking it up form the streets instead.

Nigel Tyrell said...

Thanks for all the comments. I'll discuss all the points with my colleagues. I'm sure there's something better we can do around the battery recycling, that won't cost too much. Got a few ideas. I hope you'll help us try them out in Brockley. Let me come back to you with a proposal.

Nigel.

Headhunter said...

No citrus peel in the compost bin? I've been sticking it in mine...

Anonymous said...

Nigel, I wonder if you might be able to help as repeat phone calls to waste management/callpoint/whoever haven't done anything except raise my blood pressure.
The council removed all wheelie bins from my stretch of Crofton Park in September, in a 'trial scheme' of kerbside collection throughout the day. The collection times however completely failed to take into account the possibility that people living above the shops might not belong to the shops - the times are all during the day. Even at weekends I can't guarantee to be around for the one collection window. So I am reduced to, essentially, flytipping. Can we get our bins back? And with some green ones too, we've never had any recycling collection. Thanks.

Nigel Tyrell said...

Sorry to 'pick' on this post directly, but these are key issues we're wrestling with:

"Not so sure aobut the council reducing the size of the bins; after all, we pay for waste removal."
Yes, we all pay for it through our taxes, but it's getting more expensive to dispose of all this waste. Are people willing to keep paying more? Is it a good use of their money anyway?

" Not so sure about how the pyramid is being interpreted either, that shows the main strategy is prevention. I agree that is it prevention, but the council shouldn't be preventing us from discarding waste."

The council do have a role in discouraging the production of waste, and as individuals we also have a responsibility for the amounts we consume.

"Waste and rubbish is exactly that. Surely we should be looking at manufacturers not creating the packaging that contributes to this waste. Waste prevention should start at the top, not with he council telling us to hang on to it."

Yes, but we need to do a number of these things. Some of it we can do locally and some needs to be done at a national and international level. Some of the way things get measured does, in my view, distort things a bit and ends up with a situation where all councils would rather you keep your bulky items in your attic!

"Smaller bins will not reduce the amount of rubish people want to throw away. The amount of rubbish I have today will be the same as I have tomorrow. Nor will it reduce the councils waste load into the incinerator. They'll just be picking it up form the streets instead."

It's important to remember that with the additional 240 ltr wheelie bins, the amount of waste you can dispose of actually increases. A slightly smaller grey bin shouldn't cause any problems, and will encourage people to think about recycling more. I live over the border in Greenwich now, and I have a 240 ltr bin for my recycling and another for my residual waste, and a third bin for my green and kithcen waste. It's very hard not to hunt for waste to put in the grey bin each week!

Anonymous said...

Surely people would recycle more if it was easier to do so.

Why can't we just put all our plastic in the green bin, not just certain kinds.

Wouldn't it be easier for the council to collect it all and then sort which plastics are recyclable and which need to go to landfill or be incinerated?

Nux said...

@ M - OMG you got a green bin after a few weeks!? I asked for one over and over again and eventually was provided with 2 green boxes, having been told that there were no green bins and none were expected (this is after already having waited for 6 months since first asking). In the meantime I was reduced to finding cardboard boxes to put my recycling in. When our neighbours moved I gave serious consideration to stealing their green bin before the new people arrived! We often fill both recycling boxes but rarely fill the black bin - I'd be very happy if we were given a big bin for recycling and a small one for other waste. The boxes are annoying as the lids blow off in the wind and they get wet. I am lucky enough to have a garden so the kitchen waste goes in the wormery :-)

Overall I am impressed with all that Nigel has to say and am really pleased that this is taken so seriously in the borough. Incidentally - will there be more community skips forthcoming? I was told about the first one but missed it as I was not around that weekend - I thought this was a brilliant idea and was hoping it would become a regular feature - is there any update that you could give us on this Nigel?

AndRoid said...

Didn't I read somewhere that the recyclable stuff just gets buried in landfill anyway? The green bin malarkey being just a way of satisfying some sort of target?

Richard Elliot said...

This is a fantastic article. Congratulations to Nigel for writing such a reasoned and comprehensive piece. Bringing in the value for money and effectiveness of recycling are oftn over looked parts of the debate.

Interesting to hear that the recycling of garden / green waste is not just something I am particularly interested in. The preference should always be domestic composting, but in a borough with so many flats this isn't always possible.

Oxfordshire, where my parents live, collects food waste (domestic composting of cooked food I don't think is advised) which would be another interesting consideration.

If incineration is just as "green" I don't think we should shy away from using more of this method.

As ever congratulations to Nick for publishing it.

Sue said...

Hi Nigel
I've just been to the dump with my neighbour - we managed to get rid of most of the stuff we took, but they said they couldn't take the bits of plasterboard we had - how do we dispose of those? Many thanks.

Moira said...

I used the Telegraph Hill garden waste collection point several times this summer as I was clearing an overgrown garden with stuff too big to be composted. It was a great help and the two guys were always very friendly and helpful.

Tressillian James said...

Would be great if the community skip was a regular thing that moved around the neighbourhoods each week. The problem people have with skips or the dump is transportation to get there. If the skip could move around different streets, a week at a time, people could bring out their large rubbish, with perhaps only a street or so to walk to get it to the skip.

patrick1971 said...

Great news about the mattress scheme and I will use that myself. Didn't think I'd get much take-up for it on Freecycle (which, incidentally, hasn't been mentioned here and is a great way to get rid of unwanted large items; Lewisham Freecycle is a very active network).

And I disagree with the person who said that having a smaller bin won't change the amount of waste. If you know that you won't be able to get rid of as much waste, this will influence your buying decisions (e.g. buying food with less packaging), which will reduce the demand for heavily packaged items, which then flows up the supply chain so packaging is reduced. Well that's the theory anyway! Same one that means that traffic increases to fill the roads available to it, but in reverse.

Anonymous said...

This is a bit tl:dr

Stuart Woodin said...

I think it great that Lewisham have started explaining and debating things like this on the blog and in a better way than their committee reports ever do. Trouble is, in setting out such a thoughtful piece, there is a danger of presenting just too many issues at once and losing impact. However I for one feel better informed and I really don't think garden waste should go anywhere but the garden unless you're talking about really invasive weeds and these should be burnt! StuartX

Anonymous said...

Ladies & gentlemen of the blog it's Mr Stuart Woodin, one of bcag's finest. woo!

BrockleyBea said...

Have arrived a few days late to this great article and debate. Couple of suggestions to throw in for consideration - my parents' local council in SWales collects garden, food, paper, and recycling waste every second week, but also has a fantastic central recycling centre as a one-stop-shop : electricals, household furniture, glass, paper, clothing, garden waste,etc. All really sociable when you go along, too, but does rely on a car, of course. In Switzerland they have a monthly Rondeval, date published and displayed everywhere locally, where you take out onto pavement any furniture you want to dump. Residents then have 3 hours to help themselves to anything they would like, before the recycle truck comes round - this is in addition to food waste, ppr collections, etc. London's flytipping culture might have a field-day initially, but a bold local council might pilot something similar....

Anonymous said...

I don't see how reducing bins from 240 ltr to 180 is going to affect people's behaviour.

We're a two person household - we recycle food and garden using two compost bins but ferquently our 240 black bin is full - especially now that we've been informed half the stuff we been recycling the council does not accept - I think they only accept anything with 1 on the packaging.

What would the council like me to do with the remaining rubbish that doesn't fit into a 180 bin? Leave it on the pavement? or Get up in the middle of the night and put it in a neighbour's bin?

Goodness knows how families with kids or people who houseshare are going to manage if we're just about managing with a 240 ltr.

And we can't take stuff to communal recycling bins as we're carbon neutral and don't drive.

Can't take the stuff down to the tip as we don't drive.

Anonymous said...

I found this article very informative, but I do think that more needs to be done to tackle the problem of fly tipping and to get across to people that this is a completely unacceptable way of dealing with waste. I've been shocked by the level of fly tipping since I moved to the borough. I haven't seen this anywhere else I've lived in London.

Nux said...

@ Anon 00:00, I used to live in Thamesmead - believe me, it can be A LOT worse than it is here!

Nux said...

@ BrockleyBea - I used to live in Germany too (Berlin in fact for all the hopefuls on the other thread, and yes, it was amazing) - and they do the same thing as in Switzerland. Sperrmuell (big rubbish) goes out onto the street on a specific day and it's a giant swap shop where people are able to come and grab your unused sofa etc for themselves. It's like a giant freecycle without the emails, and I've always thought it was a fantastic idea. Could this be an innovative approach for Lewisham to pioneer?

Tressilliana said...

Great article.

Recycling: my understanding is that Lewisham collects plastic with 1 or 2 inside the little triangle, cans and tins, cardboard and paper. That's all. The plastic, cans and tins should be clean. Is that still right?

I regularly see green bins stuffed with all sorts of stuff so it must be a tricky business sorting it all out. What happens about contamination, e.g. if people don't clean the tins or plastic before chucking them in the green bin? Does it spoil the whole load or is the sorting process sufficiently sophisticated to isolate the spoiled stuff?

On the subject of the grey bin capacity, we are a household of 2 adults and 2 teenagers. Our grey bin is very rarely more than half-full, and we don't do any composting. What on earth are you throwing away, Anon 15/1 21.38, if two of you are regularly unable to cram any more rubbish into a 240l bin?

Nigel Tyrell said...

Thanks for all the comments, I've found this exchange of views, and the opportunity to discuss these issues in a bit more depth really helpful. We're going to sit down at look at all the points that have been made here, and consider how we can continue to improve these services and the way we communicate with you. For those of you who have raised individual queries, please feel free to e-mail me: nigel.tyrell@lewisham.gov.uk and I'll do my best to help. Best wishes,
Nigel

graeme said...

We've had three little bays built by Lewisham (about twenty five years ago) into the wall by my gaff, with the understanding that they're to be used to dump large items. A caged truck does a sweep once a week, but most stuff gets taken by passing pedestrians and car drivers within a day. Although it is a bit sad to see that one person's tat (and believe me it pretty much is), is another's treasure.

I used to be on Lewisham freecycle, and it's a pretty good way of getting rid too, but you have to be extremely quick on the draw to bag something with any real value. And that was pre-recession.

Anonymous said...

@anon 21.38

Stop buying so much crap and try to think about what you put into your supermarket trolley when you're doing the shopping. Have another look at the waste hierarchy and you will see at the top that its prevention first followed by minimisation.

Can't you see, the Council can't do everything for you, they need your input as well. And as for the plastics that go into the bin, I've been told that its plastic bottles only for now, until such time that the plant that separates the recycling can take other types of plastic. Its not difficult stuff.

Anonymous said...

LONG LIVE THE MIGHTY WASTE HEIARCHY!!! *kneels with hands in the air*

I said...

Hope that's a good wine you're drinking, anon 17:42!

Anonymous said...

I'm not. As prevention is better than recycling (the bottle), I didn't have any, ever.

The only energy conscious thing I can do, quite frankly, is to sit here and wank.

mintness said...

Won't somebody please think of the tissues?!

Danja said...

What about fluorescent lamps and tubes?

Now commonplace, and only going to get more so with the phasing out of incandescent. Shouldn't be chucked in black bin because of the mercury, and if there is another way in which Lewisham helps dispose of them I don't know what it is. At least with batteries there is some provision even if it is poor.

Tamsin said...

Is that what the wheelie-bin with a line through it means?

Yes, a problem...

Charles said...

With the two bins - green and black, we do have more space for rubbish than the good old galvanised steel bin. However it does not mean that we always fill the bin just because the space is there.

Buying new smaller bins to replace existing ones strikes me as a profiligate waste of money. Perhaps though Lewisham Council have it to throw around?

The extra space is quite useful for those occasions when the Bin Men fail to collect the rubbish.

If Lewisham Council want to reduce the amount of collects how about encouraging adjacent neighbours to share one black bin. If that overflows during the week they'd then overflow to the spare.

Nigel Tyrell said...

"Buying new smaller bins to replace existing ones strikes me as a profiligate waste of money"

We've been replacing the old 240 ltr bins with 180 ltr bins as they wear our. We shall be swapping the lids or putting stickers on other existing 240 ltr bins and use those for recyclables. This will help keep the cost of new bins down. If we can increase the % of the waste we recycle, by reducing the total amount produced and increasing the amount recycled, then that would seem to be an effective use of your money.

Danja said...

You answered the easy one - but what is the policy on fluorescents? Does Lewisham quietly rely on the heavy metal scrubbers at SELCHP to catch the mercury?

Nigel Tyrell said...

"You answered the easy one "

Yes I did! I've asked my colleagues to look at all the points raised and put together a more comprehensive response. Some of the contributions have got us thinking about some service improvements, which we hope to share with you soon. If anyone wants to email me directly in the meantime, please do: nigel.tyrell@lewisham.gov.uk

Tamsin said...

A few things that occur:

Firstly, it struck me as very unfair of the BBC local news last week to compare LBL's recycling so harshly with Greenwich. The Greenwich lady had three whopping great ugly bins cluttering up her pavement - one the incredibly unaesthetic green with a blue lid - and the "unfortunate" old lady from Lewisham on the other side of the road just had one small box - which would not take all her newspapers. But I know which I would prefer! And she could have always asked for a second box - we have got by very nicely with two boxes ever since LBL started the recycling - or a green bin if that is what she wanted.

Secondly, on re-using being higher up the hierarchy than re-cycling - I've seen a box in the Laurence House Foyer where christmas cards are collected for, it seems, St. Christopher's Hospice to actually re-use (presumably cutting out the picture and making a new card with it). This is what my mother used to do with the Sunday school and seems much better than pulping them. Can anyone bring in their cards and how long will it be there?

Thirdly, again on re-using rather than re-cycling or land-fill, I recall being rather shocked by a documentary a few years back about Council workers, where it was made clear that regulations required them to just dump the effects of those who die intestate and without relatives where it is the Council who take on the task of clearing the house or flat. Perfectly good furniture was being chucked on a skip with, heart-breakingly, mementoes and war-time ephemera that should have found a place in tthe public record office or museum. Is this still the policy? If so, can't something be done to change it, as it seems both eco-unfriendly and a criminal waste.

Tamsin said...

Another thing about re-using rather than re-cycling. The manager at the Telegraph Hill Centre will be having puppies shortly and has put out an appeal for old newspapers - to re-use rather than re-cycle. By the office door in the Centre please and for preference the broadsheets with the ink that does not come off on your hands, and no staples (which the ES and Metro have) as the puppies eat them!

SarahC said...

A really useful article - particular after the news stories about Lewisham's recycling levels yesterday. I understand why food waste isn't collected, but not everyone can compost. People who live in flats without gardens (and no room for wormeries) would love to not have to throw food away.

Anonymous said...

"People who live in flats without gardens (and no room for wormeries) would love to not have to throw food away."

Perhaps you could eat it?

Anonymous said...

"People who live in flats without gardens (and no room for wormeries) would love to not have to throw food away."

Perhaps you could eat it?

Anonymous said...

"People who live in flats without gardens (and no room for wormeries) would love to not have to throw food away."

Perhaps you could eat it?

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