Recycle for Lewisham

A blog written for residents of Lewisham


This page is dedicated to answering the most frequently asked questions received by the Recycling team. It is constantly being updated so your question may appear here in the near future.

What is Lewisham’s policy towards waste and recycling?

Waste hierarchy Although ‘recycling’ is cited as the key activity in relation to sustainable waste management, Lewisham operates within a broader regulatory framework. The waste hierarchy 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 we currently give residents smaller 180L bins whenever they request a new refuse bin. Our 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 household in Lewisham has reduced from 774kg in 2009/10 to 762kg in 2010/11.

We firmly believe that the emphasis should be placed on waste prevention and a lot of our communications, efforts and work goes into this area. This can involve buying items with reduced amounts of packaging, reusing items such as water bottles and carrier bags or composting your food and garden waste at home. If after doing this you have materials left over the next best option is to recycle these items.

The very last option should be throwing something in the black refuse bin. What many people consider to be waste is a valuable resource – for example; the mining of oil for the creation of plastics is extremely energy intensive, and increasingly expensive, as is the manufacturing process to get it to a food quality container such as a plastic bottle. By throwing items such as this into a refuse bin we effectively lose that resource.

Making the right decision will save money and resources, for both the individual and the Local Authority as well as having a less harmful effect on the environment.

Why can’t I put black sacks into my recycling bin?

In the UK we have traditionally thrown our rubbish into a black sack before putting it into our refuse bin. Sadly, some residents use their recycling bin as another refuse bin and put normal household rubbish like food into it. This causes the contents of the recycling bin to become contaminated and in most cases unrecyclable.

Therefore, looking for black sacks in a recycling bin is a very easy way to spot contamination. Now we do appreciate that some people may be putting the correct items in the black sacks, but we are unable to take that chance. Neither the Recycling Crews who collect from 2000 houses per day, nor the staff at the Recycling Facility (MRF), who sift through eight tones of rubbish at a time, have the ability to check each individual black bag that they come across.

Normal household rubbish can not only contaminate recyclables, but it can also cause MRF breakdowns. Food, nappy and garden waste can both dirty and damage the machinery.

Please remember that black sacks can only be used for household waste.

Why do neighbouring boroughs have more recycling bins than us?

The reason why we only issue one recycling wheelie bin per household is because of the housing stock that we have in the borough. Most residencies are either flats or terraced houses and as a result space at the front of properties is at a premium. Therefore, most residents do not have enough room to store more than one recycling bin.

What is a MRF?

A MRF pronounced MURF is a Materials Recovery Facility, a specialized plant that receives, separates and prepares recyclable materials for marketing to end-user manufacturers.

Click here to be taken to the Lewisham’s recycling process page.

Why can’t I put small electrical items into my recycling bin and what can I do with them?

Small electricals are unable to be placed into your recycling bin because the Recycling Facility (MRF) that we take it to is unable to process them.

Click here to be taken to the small electrical items page.

Other electrical items can be taken to our Reuse and Recycling Centre at Landmann Way.

Should I clean my bottles and containers before I put them into my recycling bin?

Yes please. We don’t need you to give them a good scrub, just a quick rinse to remove any remaining food or drink. This ensures far better quality recyclables.

Can lids be recycled?

Yes. Both metal and plastic lids from plastic/glass bottles and jars can be recycled, though it’s best to remove them first.

Should I refer to recycling symbols on packaging?

No, though they act as a guide, they are not specific to any one borough. Please click here for a complete list of what can be put into your recycling bin.

Why don’t you tell us to recycle plastics by using the Society of Plastics Industry (SPI) code?

The main reason is that most people find it easier to identify an item, like a bottle or a margarine tub, than to look for a code on it. Lots of manufacturers do not put the code on the packaging.

The codes below identify which polymer the item is made from.

No Name Type of household items Can I recycle it?
Soft drink bottles
2 HDPE Detergent bottles and milk bottles Yes
3 PVC Non-food cling film Yes
4 LDPE Carrier bags and squeezy bottles Yes
5 PP Margarine tubs and food trays Yes
6 PS Polystyrene and foam plastics No
7 Other Acrylics and Sunglasses lenses No

Why can’t I put ceramics, ovenware, hardened glass and Pyrex into my recycling bin and what can I do with them?

These items are made from glass or materials with a different melting point to glass bottles and jars. If included in the smelting process, they make weak points in the new glass containers that are produced. So please put these into your black refuse bin.

Why can’t I put batteries into my recycling bin and what can I do with them?

Because batteries vary in size and weight they are difficult to sort at the recycling facility. They also contain dangerous chemicals which could be released during the sorting process.

Click here to find out how you can recycle your batteries.

Why doesn’t Lewisham offer a separate food waste collection service?

At present, there are no facilities for a separate food and kitchen waste collection within Lewisham and as a result of this it is best placed into the black refuse bin. However, we are giving away free compost bins for residents (while stocks last), these bins can be used to compost kitchen and food waste providing that you have adequate space in your garden for one.

Click here to find out more about home composting.

There are currently a number of reasons why Lewisham doesn’t collect food waste; at the moment Lewisham’s refuse, including food waste, is sent to an incinerator in New Cross called SELCHP. However, that is not the end of the story, the energy created by the incineration process is recovered, turned into electricity and then piped back into the national grid. Thanks to SELCHP Lewisham has one of the lowest landfill rates in the country, which is great for the Borough both economically and environmentally.

If for arguments sake Lewisham were to collect food and garden waste, the ideal way to dispose of it would be to take it to an Anaerobic Digestion (AD) plant. The ultimate goal of an AD plant is to break down the waste and to generate electricity in the process, we at Lewisham do the exact same thing by sending our waste to SELCHP.

Although there are additional benefits to AD including the production of compost and nutrient rich fertiliser, at present these benefits are outweighed by the prohibitive costs of purchasing food and garden waste wheelie bins and caddies for all Lewisham residents as well as additional vehicles and crews to collect the food waste. This is coupled with the fact that there are currently no AD plants within a reasonable proximity to Lewisham, meaning that the environmental impact of transporting the food waste would also need to be thought about.

Essentially at this current point in time it would be neither environmentally nor economically beneficial and would achieve nothing more than to inflate our current recycling rate. We prefer to encourage residents to reduce waste in the first instance and compost waste at home (especially food and garden waste) rather than give it to us to recycle/compost, although we appreciate that not all residents can compost at home, we take the view that our current policy is more environmentally sound. Other local authorities who choose to provide food and garden waste collections and therefore boast much higher recycling/composting rates usually have very high overall waste per household figures, due to these collections. These authorities also have different drivers such as Landfill tax, so the monetary pressures heavily influence their decisions.

However, food waste is a valuable resource which can be utilised and should the situation arise when collecting food waste made both economic and environmental sense I’m sure Lewisham would give it serious consideration.

Lewisham Council’s Head of Environment (Nigel Tyrell) wrote an interesting piece on the boroughs waste strategy which addresses the issue of food waste along with other plans and can be found on local blog Brockley Central.

Why can’t I put garden waste into my recycling bin?

Garden waste cannot be put into your recycling bin because it is non-recyclable organic waste. Only clean and dry recyclable materials are able to be put into our recycling bin and as a result we are unable to collect garden waste.

Sadly, most non-recyclable items can often result in good quality recycling becoming contaminated and therefore unrecyclable. Paper for example, naturally absorbs the moisture found in garden waste. The cleaning chemicals used in the recycling process are unable to adequately cleanse the paper, therefore making it unusable.

Click here to find out how to dispose of your garden waste.

I’ve got some old clothes, what’s the best thing to do with them?

Think about why they are unwanted. We’ve created a list, starting with the best possible option:

1. If they are too big or too small give them to other family members, donate them to charity shops or deposit them into one of the numerous textile recycling banks in the borough.

Click here to find your nearest recycling bank.

2. If they are stained and unwearable you can use them to make dusters or draft excluders.

3. If they are damaged and can no longer be used you can put them into your household recycling bin.

Does home composting attract vermin?

As long as you don’t put meat, bread or sweet food into your compost bin it should not attract vermin.

4 thoughts on “FAQs

  1. Please can anyone advise me? I want to know if I can recycle LED light bulbs. I checked the web and was informed I could, at Lewisham Library. But once I got there, it seemed that the info had been wrong. Lewisham Library only recycles low energy light bulbs. Do I just put LED light bulbs in the normal household waste, wrapped in newspaper?

  2. Now we can recycle food waste, does that include cherry and avocado stone So?

  3. Hi there. Do you safely dispose of toiletries that contain microbeads? I have some that I want to safely dispose of and not pour down the drain. What advice do you have for residents wanting to safely dispose of toiletries with microbeads?

  4. I am confused as to what plastic bags I can recycle and what bin they should go in. On your booklet ‘ Welcome to your new rubbish & recycling service’ it says no plastic bags in the recycling bin. I contacted the council and was told that normal carrier bags do go in the recycling bin. What bin should I put my bubble wrap, postage bags, and black postage bags in? I think the council should clarify exactly what goes where. It is very confusing,

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