A day in the life of the depot compost bin

It took a little embarrassment to give me the inspiration to give our compost heap some rather over due tender loving care last week. It all started when I lifted the lid of our compost bin that we use at work during a recent workshop and saw, together with everyone else, the sorry state it was in.  

The entire heap seemed to have shrunk in all directions creating a space between the bin and the sides of the heap. The top of the heap where you dump new waste in, as well as the sides, had formed a crust of mostly dried out tea bags and paper towels. 

Thankfully I didn’t have to dig too deeply to find some nice compost to show but it was drier than usual and it got me thinking. 

Back in Australia, I’d encourage people to turn over their compost heap and add in a little water/urine mix to ensure that the outer sides wouldn’t dry out from the heat. Here in England, it just didn’t seem necessary… until this summer! We’ve had a great summer this time around with lots of warm sunshine and not a lot of rain.

After all the hard work sorting the compost bin, Kristina has some quality compost to use.

After all the hard work sorting the compost bin, Kristina has some quality compost to use.

Due to the heat, the moisture within the heap had started to evaporate causing the contents of the compost bin to shrink and come away from the sides. As staff put more new scraps in they often didn’t sit on the top in a nice damp mound but fell away to the sides. Instead of retaining it’s moisture, these new additions, now thinly spread, would dry quickly and form a crust rather than break down quickly. It was time to give this normally moist compost heap some overdue TLC! 

Our bin has removable side panels to gain easy access to the contents, so removing 2 of these, I first scraped off the outer dry crust from the top and the sides and kept this separate. I did the same for the next layer in, revealing the good stuff underneath – beautiful earth smelling rich compost.  

At this point I realised how much ready to use compost we had and that we hadn’t utilised this lovely resource to it’s full potential – isn’t that half the reason why we compost? So with just 5 minutes of promotion, bags and bags of this gold were happily carried away by staff to use on their own gardens whilst most of it went onto the garden beds in the depot. 

I kept some back to restore our dried up crust though. So here’s how I revived what I had left of the remaining heap: 

What I had left:

       Crust layer (5% of a bin’s worth)

       Second layer in – quite dry but not crisp and semi broken down (10% of a bin’s worth)

       Moist somewhat broken down materials (20% of a bin’s worth)

       High quality compost (20% of a bin’s worth (45% of good compost was given away)

Taking out half of the high quality compost and putting it aside, I spread out the remaining compost inside the bin, ensuring that it reached the sides of the bin and was level. 

Meanwhile, I filled a tub with the crusty outer layer and poured in a bucket of algae enriched water from our water butt to soak the dry materials. Not only would the water re-hydrate it, but the algae, full of nitrogen, would be great to speed up the breakdown process. Of course, if you need to do the same, tap water will do the job, and better still, pop some urine into the mix! I wasn’t too keen on getting staff members to volunteer their personal nitrogen source to our compost heap though, so rain water was fine by me! 

The finished product ready for distribution on garden beds in the depot and peoples gardens.

The finished product ready for distribution on garden beds in the depot and peoples gardens.

I then mixed all the materials together by simply layering it back into the compost bin making sure that all the different grades were evenly mixed and watered from the soaking tub. Importantly, the upper most layers of soaked crusty materials were covered with a more broken down grade of compost so that they wouldn’t simply dry out again. 

From here, we just go about putting our scraps in as usual. They now fall onto a level surface that’s moist and teeming with life. You should have seen the abundant critters as I was working on the heap – I’m sure they are glad that I’ll leave them alone now!


Saturday 27th September at 11.45am THE ORCHESTRATED WASTE PROCESSION will leave the gallery and make its way through Deptford Market stopping at THE LIVING LIBRARY MARKET STALL and various skips en route including a rubbish trading point. At Margaret McMillan Park the marchers collaborate to use their found materials to make world globe sculptures spontaneously. All welcome, so come and join us!


Set within the culturally and historically revered library context, the newly categorised found rubbish contrasts by juxtaposition, to be revalued, reused and transformed. Provocatively and directly questioning consumer habits; the Library and the Living Room encourage shifting from a profit and loss ethos to a creative playful rediscovery of taken for granted stuff thrown out everyday. Participants are welcome to take stuff away to create new uses/forms/artwork, photograph the work and return the image to the Library to be re-referenced in its turn by others. Additionally participants must replenish, using newly found items, with a view to inspire others. This is a community, educational and audience immersive project learning from the doing.

The Artist Margaret Jennings studied foundation art at UAL Camberwell gaining a distinction and is currently studying BA Fine Arts at Goldsmiths University of London.

The Giving and Taking Back Living Library was exhibited June to July 2014 at Goldsmiths University Library and at the Menier Gallery. In November the Library moves to Greenwich University.

For more information ring Margaret on 07788 928 569 or e-mail margaretkokoroarts@gmail.com, also more information can be found at www.gold.ac.uk under the events calendar June & July and library blog & events.

DEPTFORD XFRINGE Arts Festival, MMX Gallery, 448 New Cross Road, SE14 6TY. mmxartgallery@gmail.com

For more information ring Margaret Jennings on 07788 928 569 or e-mail margaretkokoroarts@gmail.com

Press View – 11am, Friday 26th September. Private View – 6pm – 8pm ish Friday 26th September including “Beautiful World” vocal performance and rubbish raffle.

12noon – 6pm, 26th September – Sunday 5th October 2014.

Old Mother Earth helped out by Lewisham’s Clean & Green schools!

The last week in July saw another triumphant end to 2014 environmental programme for Lewisham’s schools, Clean & Green.  Each year, up to 25 schools in the borough sign up for the year long programme with the aim of increasing environmental awareness in their school through initiatives such as food growing, litter clean ups, recycling collection schemes.  The sky really is the limit as schools are awarded at the end of the academic year for the most original and ingenious ways that they have come up with to help improve the environment of the school and surrounding areas.

Schools work on the programme from October to June, concentrating on their chosen theme and at the end of the year, they submit an entry showing what they have managed to achieve.  Support is given along the way in the form of  visits and assemblies. And as recognition of their hard work an award ceremony takes place in the Civic Suite, Catford, attended by representatives from the school and Lewisham’s local dignitaries in late July.

This years awards were presented by Cllr Rachel Onikosi – Cabinet Member for Public Realm and Nigel Tyrell – Head of Environment at Lewisham.  The afternoon included a lunch for the children and teachers and an environmental performance called ‘Old Mother Earth’.

Actors Nichola and Barney from Caboodle Arts performing 'Old Mother Earth'

Actors Nichola and Barney from Caboodle Arts performing ‘Old Mother Earth’

This years programme saw more excellent work from all the schools who took part, but particularly, the schools who managed to achieve awards who were – Coopers Lane, Haseltine, Holbeach, Watergate, St Augustines, Edmund Waller & Good Shepherd Primary Schools.  St Winifreds Catholic and Stillness Infant Schools also managed to secure Gold awards.

All Saints Primary School was presented with the overall runner up award for their efforts to encourage the whole school and local neighbourhood to use more sustainable forms of transport.  However, the overall winner of this years programme was Horniman Primary School who won the Clean & Green Distinction Award and a cheque for £300 for their pedal powered radio station which children, parents and teachers built in their school playground!

Cleanest and Greenest!  Cllr Rachel Onikosi presents Horniman students Keir Holmes,  Marnie Paul, Jacob Waters with award and cheque for the school.

Cleanest and Greenest! Cllr Rachel Onikosi presents Horniman students Keir Holmes, Marnie Paul, Jacob Waters with award and cheque for the school.

If you are a child, teacher or parent at a Lewisham school and would like more information on taking part in next years programme, please email David.brinson@lewisham.gov.uk or visit http://www.lewisham.gov.uk/getinvolved/environment/Pages/Clean-and-Green-Schools.aspx http://www.lewisham.gov.uk/getinvolved/environment/Pages/Clean-and-Green-Schools.aspx for more information.

Refuse and Recycling collection arrangements during the August Bank Holiday

There will be changes to your refuse and recycling collections for the week commencing Monday 25th August 2014


     Normal Collection day      Revised collection day
 Week commencing 25th August
  • Monday 25th August
  • Tuesday 26th August
  • Tuesday 26th August
  • Wednesday 27th August
  • Wednesday 27th August
  • Thursday 28th August
  • Thursday 28th August
  • Friday 29th August
  • Friday 29th August
  • Saturday 30th August


Don't forget to put your bins out if you want a collections over Easter

Don’t forget to put your bins out if you want a collections over the August Bank Holiday.

 Please make sure you bins are out for collection on your

revised collection day. Remember, if the bins are not at the boundary or inside edge of your property on collection day, we will assume that you are on holiday or do not require a collection.

 Usual service will resume the week beginning Monday 1st September 2014

All collections due to weather permitting

New push locks on communal recycling bins

If you take your recycling to large communal bins, over the next few months, you may notice new, more secure locks appearing on the recycling bins that you use.


Why do we need locks on recycling bins?

Most residents are very careful to ensure that the right things go into the right bins. Unfortunately though, some bins still do get items put into them that can’t be recycled in Lewisham- black bin bags being one of the biggest culprits!

The new locks will prevent the whole lid from being opened, making the dumping of non recycling items  like filled black sacks, much more difficult. Lids will remain the same, most of them with slots which can be lifted so that acceptable recyclable items such as cartons & tins (rinsed of any food), empty aerosols, clothing, glass and folded card and paper can be placed through.

If you live on an estate and use communal recycling facilities, you should have got a leaflet through your door to tell you more about this. If you missed it – see below!

LPA SLAM LOCK leaflet_modified01

If you need any more information about what you can place into your recycling bin, please visit our website http://goo.gl/CNt6P7  If you want to know more about the bin locks, please email Kate.parkinson@lewisham.gov.uk or Kristina.binns@lewisham.gov.uk

Police stand by whilst a man is eaten by a large compost heap

People’s Day 2014 and the Green Police were out in force again arresting anyone they caught not recycling and dealing with their waste properly. Many people came to see the recycling stall near the bandstand in Mountsfield Park on what was a lovely summers day and took away the odd freebie (spaghetti and rice measurers, pens, pencils, rulers, cotton shopping bags etc.) or just some information they were after.

Joining forces with Lewisham police to fight the war on waste

Joining forces with Lewisham police to fight the war on waste

Over 150 people visited the recycling stall which also benefitted from being situated right next to the man eating compost heap called Compost Mentis. This was a small theatrical performance by 3 actors which served to highlight the benefits of composting whose star performer was a huge compost heap that comes to life and eventually devours the disgruntled gardener who seems to spend his time in the garden getting annoyed.

Dave Bowman from Bywaters (right) with Kate and Dave from our recycling team

Dave Bowman from Bywaters (left) with Kate and Dave from our recycling team

The Compost Mentis performance drew quite a healthy crowd and children in particular were mesmerised by the large compost heap gulping down the gardener and letting out a mighty burp at the end. For those that weren’t able to see the performance, please click on the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQuDKLHNRXo

A disgruntled gardener has a closer look at the large compost heap

A disgruntled gardener has a closer look at the large compost heap

This year like last year, the Green Police aka Lewisham’s Recycling Team were joined by a new recruit from Bywaters, the company that takes all of the recyclables that are collected in the recycling bins across the borough. Dave Bowman (Recycling Quality and Tipping Relations Manager) was on hand to answer all those tricky questions posed by residents regarding what happens after all those tins, cans, bottles, cardboard, paper and beverage cartons are tipped into the back of a recycling vehicle. It was very useful having him there as there were quite a few residents that were intent on grilling him and finding out all about the sorting and separating processes.

The gardener is devoured  by the large compost heap and shocking all the onlookers

The gardener is devoured by the large compost heap and shocking all the onlookers

Overall, a very productive day for the team and hopefully all the questions that were asked were answered satisfactorily. Everyone liked the Love Food Hate Waste freebies that were given away. We also promoted the Love Food Hate Waste website which is a very useful resource and covers all aspects of food including recipes and how to store food correctly. For those who are not familiar, please see the following link: http://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com/

Sir Vivor bag textile trial hits parts of the borough with a £100 prize on offer

In a joint partnership project with our textile and recycling contractor, Lewisham Council are trialing the collection of textiles using what is being called the Sir Vivor bag. Unlike other collections that utilise ordinary sacks that are just left on the doorstep for collectors to take, this one tries a whole different way to recover those textiles in the best condition it can.

Fill the Sir Vivor bags with your unwanted textiles and then place the bag/s in your recycling bin.

Fill the Sir Vivor bags with your unwanted textiles and then place the bag/s in your recycling bin.

Residents are probably used to the idea of putting textiles in their recycling bins at the moment and whilst this is an OK method of collection, there are quality issues to think about. We also encourage residents to think about using charity shops and dedicated textile banks first before putting their textiles in the recycling bin loose.

Putting items in loose does leave them vulnerable to damage and being soiled as they enter the compactor and then are tipped at the other end with all the cans, bottles, cardboard, plastic bottles and juice cartons. With this survival bag, the air is compressed out during compaction and the thicker plastic sacks protect the items inside until its tipped and recovered at the materials recovery facility (MRF) in Bow, East London.

The scheme is being trialed in parts of Grove Park, Lower Sydenham, Bellingham, Crofton Park, Forest Hill, Catford South, Hither Green, Brockley, Blackheath and Ladywell. For those properties that fall in the trial zone, you will be receiving a couple of the Sir Vivor bags with a leaflet (see above). This details what can and cannot go into the sacks and there will also be an opportunity for those that submit some feedback to have a chance of winning £100 worth of vouchers.

Full bags should be left in your recycling bin (preferably at the bottom)

Full bags will find their way to LMB Textiles via the Bywaters materials recovery facility.

The full sacks go into your recycling bin (preferably at the bottom where it can’t be seen) and then you use your recycling bin as normal.  After collection, the bags will go to our textile contractor LMB Textiles http://www.lmb.co.uk/ where they will be reused and recycled.


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