Recycle for Lewisham

A blog written for residents of Lewisham


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Taking a closer look at contamination of recycling bins

Lewisham Council’s operations team, all the team members involved in waste education, the contracts manager looking after the Bywaters contract and the Strategic Waste Manager are always looking for ways to tackle the issue of contamination within the recycling bins in the borough.

Before we go into the role we want residents to play in helping the Council tackle the issue of contamination, let’s start by looking more closely at what contamination actually means. When we say that a bin has been contaminated, we mean that there are items in the recycling bin that really should not be in there and which the materials recovery facility (Bywaters) do not actually want.

We recently put a sticker on every 240 litre recycling wheelie bin across the entire borough clearly stating what can go into the bin. The sticker uses photographs, symbols and text to illustrate what we want our residents to do when it comes to using the recycling bins correctly.

Putting the correct materials in the recycling bin will help us tackle the contamination issue.

As well as a sticker, the Council have also produced a small booklet which was distributed to all kerbside properties. Like the sticker, it gave clear instructions about what can go into the recycling bin and what happens to the recycling after the crews empty the bins.

We have also put information on to our recycling vehicles, in the Lewisham Life magazine, on the Council’s website as well as this blog. We’ve sent out press releases and used JC Decaux signs to spread the message further and also used Twitter to highlight the issue to around 900 followers.

Our recycling crews are also helping us by identifying offending recycling bins, putting a red tag on them and then letting us know so that we can write to the residents concerned in a bid to work together to tackle this issue. We then write to a resident 3 times if they are persistently contaminating the bin and on the 4th time will explain that we are taking the recycling bin away. We need to do this to stop the contamination.

But, despite all these measures, we’re still not quite on top of the issue. Our crews are still coming across bins that are filled with garden waste or worse still, food waste. Food waste causes problems as it smells, it’s usually wet and will spread to other materials when compacted in the vehicles. Cardboard and paper covered in food waste understandably affects the quality of the material and ultimately the value and price of it.

Blacks sacks are still being seen in the recycling bins on a regular basis. Whilst plastic sacks on their own (providing they are empty and clean) are fine, many people are still putting full black sacks in the recycling bins. The problem with this is that our crews cannot tear them open or check every bag due to time and health and safety considerations and if the sacks do contain general refuse, we will again have quality issues with the materials.

Bywaters recently showed us some images from one of our loads that contained a lots of polystyrene. This is another material that cannot be recycled and doesn’t belong in the recycling bin. If people do have lots of polystyrene, then simply put this into your domestic refuse bin where it will be incinerated at the South East London Combined Heat and Power plant (SELCHP) in New Cross. Some people might think they are doing the right thing and that a home or market will be sought at the recycling plant for this material, but this is not the case. It will be flagged up as a problem load, the offending material will then need to be removed and subsequently transported for disposal with the costs being passed on to us. This applies to many materials that we find in the recycling bins.

After Bywaters have sorted and separated the materials, they are sold to reprocessors. Prices for these materials vary depending on current market conditions. Good quality, clean materials will be more readily accepted and be sold much easier, poor quality contaminated materials won’t be.

Our message to our residents is to only put the items that are stated on the new bin stickers and follow the information in the new booklets that were distributed to kerbside properties. Residents on estates or flats will have received a similar booklet and an additional bag to help transport materials to their nearest recycling bins. For those with any doubts about what can go into the recycling bins (including clear sacks), please click on the following: http://www.lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/wasterecycle/Pages/What-can-I-put-in-my-recycling-bin.aspx


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Recycle Week in Lewisham 2012

June 18th – 24th was National Recycle Week  and was an opportunity for the Environment and Community Development (ECD) Team to promote recycling to the residents of the borough. Social media was used to send out endless tweets giving facts about plastic bottles (this years theme) as well as other facts to encourage people to recycle more or even start recycling for the first time.

Several different events took place by way of raising awareness of recycling generally, but also to keep putting the message out that the Council are now able to recycle more materials such as beverage cartons, shredded paper, textiles and mixed plastics on top of the usual paper, cardboard, cans, plastic bottles and glass.

As part of the acivities, we took a group of pensioners from the Lewisham Pensioners Forum to the materials recycling facility (MRF) so that they were able to witness at first hand how all the various materials were separated and sorted using an efficient mechanised process that also includes a great deal of hand sorting.

As well as this, Council staff took out its recycling trailer twice during the week to the Lewisham shopping centre where a builders bag was used to collect ‘on the go’ recycling from the commuters and shoppers who were out and about in the high street.  As well as collecting cans and sandwich packs, there were also a lot of plastic bottles collected. This was also an opportunity to engage with our residents to promote the recycling of plastic bottles and to answer any queries they had about recycling and waste issues generally.

A resident visits us at our recycling trailer

Some of the items collected in the builders bag from shoppers and commuters.

Whilst these activities were taking place, we had also been in touch with an art organisation called Platform-7 to organise another event that we wanted to take place during Recycle Week. The event was called Deluge (see story further down) which took place at the old Blockbusters store in Rushey Green, Catford. The focus here was on the ‘politics of the videocassette, obsolescence and recycling. ‘ Academics from Goldsmiths University gave mini lectures on obsolescence and packaging. Paul Halliday, a lecturer from Goldsmiths was exhibiting his art installation at the Blockbusters store. This was a large spooled out mass of video tape from around 600 old video tapes that were collected as part of the project. Whilst Platform-7 were using the disused shop (courtesy of Lewisham Council), they were encouraging residents to still use it as a drop off point for all their unwanted videos which people were more than happy to do. Just like the old days. Looking at the  the mass of spooled out tape was like staring at an advancing oil slick in the large open space of the Blockbuster store.

The spooled out tape from 600 video tapes. More were collected and will be recycled.

The Council also called upon the services of WEEE Man who turned up to promote the collecting of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) . As well as using Blockbusters for collecting video tapes, it was also being used as a drop off point  for old electrical waste and several items of WEEE were collected as part of this.

WEEE Man deep in video tape at Deluge

The spooling mass of tape could be seen 24 hours a day through the window with the night lights and assisting fans giving the installation a different look in the dark evening.

The drop off point for video tapes. WEEE Man drops off his old Terminator films.

All tapes, items of WEEE, the recyclables collected in the builders bag in the high street will all be recycled at the end of Recycle Week.


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What happens to everything that goes into your recycling bin?

We do get a lot of enquiries about what happens to everything that goes into the recycling bins in Lewisham. Whilst we take great efforts to explain what happens to all the materials that go into the recycling bins, there are some people that aren’t convinced that a mechanised process can deal with sifting and sorting all of the different materials.

Of course its not an entirely mechanised process and there are whole lines of people who hand sort much of the materials as it first enters the materials recycling facility, also known as a MRF (pronounced merf).

We do organise tours around the MRF so that people can see all the processes first hand and we also direct people to our contractor Bywaters website where there is a video showing what happens to all the materials once they are tipped out of the recycling vehicles. Not everyone will do these things however so we thought we should put the video of the processes involved on our blog to make it a little more accessible.

Below is what happens to the contents of your recycling bin once it has been emptied.


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Roll out of new recycling bin stickers begins

Work has begun on putting new stickers on all of Lewisham’s recycling bins so that residents will have a clear and easy guide as to what can now be recycled in the borough.

Member of the bin stickering team at work

 From December 2011, the Council started a new contract with the contractor Bywaters in Bow,East London. Under this new contract the Council are able to recycle more materials, which means that you can now recycle, paper, cardboard, glass, cans, plastic bottles, textiles, mixed plastics, shredded paper and beverage cartons (tetra paks). Please make sure all of the above are clean before putting them into your recycling bin.

 The teams that are putting the stickers onto the bins are currently in the Lee area and will be gradually making their way around the rest of the borough to ensure that all residents 240 litre recycling bins receive a sticker. The sticker clearly illustrates exactly what can go into the recycling bins using photographs to ensure we get the message to everyone about the new materials.

 With the Council now receiving an income for everything that is recycled, it is more important than ever for all the residents of the borough to recycle as much of their waste as they can.

With regard to the recycling of textiles, if they are in good condition, we would recommend that they go to a charity shop in the first instance. However, if you feel that they might not be worth giving to a charity shop, then please use your recycling bin.


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Estates recycling update

We’ve previously reported on the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) estates recycling programme http://ow.ly/8s8Tc . With the start of 2012, and the programme well underway and making good progress, it seemed the right time to give an update on the scheme so far.

 This Monday saw the environmental organisation Waste Watch come to the Wearside depot to spend a day with their team of experienced recycling advisors. The day was a chance to refresh the recycling advisors on the issues of health and safety when door knocking and also to learn all about the new estates recycling programme in Lewisham and the new materials that can now be recycled in the borough.  The recycling advisors will also be making a visit to the  Bywaters materials recycling facility this Monday to see what happens to all the materials as they get processed.  This will help them to explain to residents what happens to the materials after they are put in the recycling bin.

New sign and brand new bins on the Sydenham Hill estate

The role of the recycling advisors is to visit 30,000 properties on all estates, small blocks and new developments across the borough. They will be knocking on the doors of estates residents and talking to them about recycling in Lewisham, how you can now recycle beverage cartons, mixed plastics and even textiles.

 As well as the recycling advisors making door to door visits, 5 estates have also been given brand new bins and additional signage in a bid to improve the participation in recycling on those estates as well as to increase the tonnages. Increasing the tonnages will benefit the Council in two ways. Firstly, it will contribute to the overall recycling rate of the borough, but there is also the benefit of it raising an income for the Council. Under the new contract that the Council have with Bywaters, an income is generated for every tonne that is collected – a real incentive for all residents of the borough to recycle.

Another one of the 5 recycling sites on the Sydenham Hill estate

If you are a resident living on an estate, in a small block or new development, you might be receiving a knock on your door from one of the team of recycling advisors soon. If you do receive an estates recycling bag, please use this to recycle paper, cardboard, glass, cans, plastic bottles, mixed plastic, beverage cartons (Tetra Paks), textiles, aerosols and shredded paper.


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Christmas tree recycling locations

As well as recycling all those empty beer cans, wine and spirits bottles, clean packaging from your turkey, plastic containers from nuts, empty biscuit tins, mince pie packaging, pickles jars, wrapping paper, bubble wrap, fruit and vegetable punnets, party platters, juice cartons and composting all those sprout peelings – don’t forget that your real Christmas tree can also be recycled when you’ve finished with it.

Usual locations available to recycle your Christmas tree

As usual, we are collecting the trees at the same locations around the borough from December 28th to Jan 27th, 2012. The locations are as follows;

SE4 Hilly Fields – entrance in Hilly Fields Crescent,

SE8 Deptford Park- entrance in Scawen Road,

SE14 Telegraph Hill -Pepys Road/Kitto Road entrance,

SE3 Talbot Place- Blackheath,

SE13 Mountsfield Park- entrance top of George Lane,

SE26 Sydenham Wells Park- entrance Wells Park Road,

SE6 Forster Memorial Park- entrance top of Whitefoot Lane,

SE12 Northbrook Park-Baring Road entrance,

SE23 Mayow Park- entrance in Mayow Road,

SE12 Chinbrook Meadows, Amblecote Road,

SE13 Manor House Gardens, Old Road entrance,

BR1  Beckenham Place Park–Old Bromley Road entrance

Happy recycling to all and hope you have a green Christmas.


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Boost for recycling as Lewisham chooses new contractor

Over the last few months, the Council have been involved in a lengthy tendering process to find a new contractor that will take and sort the comingled (mixed) recycling for the next 3 years. The process took several months and attracted a broad range of interest from contractors involved in recycling and waste management that were keen to work with the Council and to process and sell all of its mixed dry recyclables.

Residents have been asking us for some time now about collecting other materials in the recycling bins and green boxes. Materials such as mixed plastics (margarine tubs, yoghurt pots) and beverage cartons (Tetra Paks). This tendering process has enabled us to take those suggestions into consideration and include them in the tender documents.

Click to see full range of new materials for recycling in Lewisham

On October 5th 2011 the Mayor and Cabinet met and agreed to a new contractor taking over from the previous incumbent Veolia. The company that won the contract for the sale and sorting of mixed dry recyclables were Bywaters (Leyton) Ltd who are based in Bow, East London.

What this will mean for the residents of Lewisham is the chance to recycle more materials using their recycling bins, green boxes and in some cases clear recycling sacks. From December the 5th, residents will be able to recycle the usual items such as paper, cardboard, glass bottles, jars, cans and plastic bottles. In additional to this however, they will also be able to recycle liquid beverage cartons (aka Tetra Paks) and also mixed plastics (i.e. food containers, trays, cups, cling film, CD’s, meat trays, yoghurt pots, ice cream tubs, plastic tubs, party platters, bubble wrap, crisp packets, DVD cases, sandwich packs) – providing that they are clean of course. Empty aerosols are also accepted.

As well as these new materials that can be added to the recycling bins, the Council are also going to be receiving an income for the materials. This means that the more that is collected, the more income that will be generated for the Council. This income can then be used in other service areas.

With the collections starting on Monday, you will be able to start filling your recycling bins and boxes TODAY! in readiness for the new contract.

If you need any further information about the collections, please email recycle@lewisham.gov.uk or call 020 314 7171.