Recycle for Lewisham

A blog written for residents of Lewisham

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Have Yourself a Merry (eco) Christmas

It doesn’t feel like it was 12 months ago that we were putting together our usual list of tips and hints on how to make your Christmas as environmentally friendly as possible.

As with every Christmas, we always notice that there are new things that can be done to reduce waste on all fronts, whether its on present buying, present wrapping or cutting down on the waste associated with food and drink.

The following are the recycling teams guide to all residents to help them enjoy a hopefully white Christmas but also a green one too.

Christmas Trees

This topic alone generates a whole range of responses. Some websites say that if you have an artificial tree, then use that rather than buy a real one. Or maybe buy a second hand artificial tree? Failing that you can rent a Christmas tree and if buying a real tree, ensure its UK grown and from a grower registered with the British Christmas Tree Growers Association.

Why not try something really different this year and go for a cardboard Christmas tree

Why not try something really different this year and go for a cardboard Christmas tree?

And of course if you do go for the real tree option, please remember to recycle your Christmas tree at one of the many sites dotted around the borough. If you do this, then at least your tree will have a second life as mulch on garden beds and paths in the borough’s parks. Locations for recycling trees can be found here:

So, now that you’ve sourced your tree from an ethical supplier or dusted down the artificial tree from the loft, you just need to make it look the part in your home without worrying about the damage being done to the environment. The following link has some great ideas on how to make your own Christmas tree decorations from items that you would on any other day, throw in the bin. Making baubles using old CD’s, turning old light bulbs into Christmas penguins, reindeer’s made out of old toilet rolls? This can also be a fun activity to do with children.

From this......

And you could end up going from this…… this using old toilet roll tubes

…to this, using old toilet roll tubes

The following link can help you out with the above  as well as many other ideas:


With the tree and decorations in place, thoughts now turn to presents. Shopping on the high street or online will be most peoples experiences of Christmas gift buying. But there are other ‘greener’ or arguably more interesting options to consider. For example, you could look at making something yourself? Could you make soap for example?

The link above has all the information you need on how to make your own lavender soap

The link above has all the information you need on how to make your own lavender soap

Or make a case for an iPad:

Why not have a go at making a case for an iPad or similar tablet

Why not have a go at making a case for an iPad or similar tablet

There are many websites offering ideas on making gifts that have the added advantage of the gifts not coming in any additional packaging and generating more waste.

Presents can also be wrapped in newspaper or in paper from magazines. If some ribbon is used to hold it together, the effect is such that you hardly pay attention to the fact that its not wrapped in proper Christmas wrapping paper. Once the presents have been opened, the wrapping paper can simply then go straight into the recycling bin – which might be the place you want to look to get it from?

Here's some we did earlier in the office. These are wrapped in newspaper with the addition of some ribbon and nice tags - simple.

Here’s some we did earlier in the office. These are wrapped in newspaper with the addition of some ribbon and nice tags – simple.

Food and Drink

There is no doubt that the purchasing of food and drink has its fair share of waste if the right amount of planning isn’t taken into account. A huge resource of ideas, tips, hints and suggestions regarding food including freezing, storage, recipes and the using up of leftovers can be found on the Love Food Hate Waste website:

Sweet and sour potatoes and sprouts from LFHW website:

Sweet and sour potatoes and sprouts from the LFHW website:

With regards to drink, then most of this will come in either a plastic bottle, an aluminium can, glass bottle or a tetra pak which fruit juice and now some wines come in. The good news is that you can recycle all of these things in Lewisham. Please make sure that over the Christmas period, you remember to recycle all drinks containers including those jars that once contained those Christmas pickles. All we ask is that everything is clean before it goes into your recycling bin. To find out exactly what goes into your recycling bin, please click on the following link:

The recycling bin can also be used for all cardboard packaging which many gifts will come in. Our crews will endeavour to keep those bins emptied over the Christmas period, but please be aware of the changes to the service due to the holidays. Full details can be found on the following link:

Unwanted Presents

By the afternoon of Christmas Day, presents will have been opened, wrapping paper and packaging will have been recycled and some presents might start to look like it wasn’t quite what you wanted. You might have the option of taking the item back with the receipt which is fine. If not, and the item in question is clothing, think about charity shops or a textile bank to ensure the item gets a second chance and will be worn by somebody who wants it.

Textile banks and charity shops will except good quality clean clothes

Textile banks and charity shops will except good quality clean clothes

A list of the textile banks can be found on the following link:  As well as clothing, there may be other gifts that you have received which a charity shop might accept and sell to people who might want it. You may also be receiving gifts that will render some of the things you already have in your house obsolete. For example, you might get new kitchen appliances which will be seen as an upgrade to what you already have at home. It could be a toaster, kettle or a coffee making machine. It may be a new DVD player, laptop or games console? If residents do have redundant electrical items at home that do not work or are broken, please recycle them using either one of our Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) banks or take the items to our Reuse and Recycle Centre. Details on the locations of the WEEE banks can be found here:

Small appliance banks can be used for toasters, kettles, hairdryers, hair straightners, irons, laptops and games consoles amongst other things

Small appliance banks can be used for toasters, kettles, hairdryers, hair straightners, irons, laptops and games consoles amongst other things

And finally, please remember to leave your bins at the boundary of your property on the correct collection day if you want them emptied. Once they have been emptied, please bring them back in off the street. Last, but not least, Lewisham’s recycling team would like to wish all residents in the borough and a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

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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:

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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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Estates recycling update

We’ve previously reported on the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) estates recycling programme . 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.


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 or call 020 314 7171.


Green Recycling Estates Bags For Flats

Earlier this year, the Council were successful in a bid to the London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB) and secured funding to purchase 20,000 green recycling estates bags (GREB’s).

Green Recycling Estates Bag

 With the 10,000 GREBS that the Council bought earlier in the year, this means that there will be 30,000 bags available for the delivery to all large estates, small blocks and new developments across the borough.

 The 55 litre bags can be easily stored and folded away when not in use and be used over and over again. The bags will essentially be used for the collecting of clean dry recyclables such as paper, cardboard, glass bottles and jars, cans and plastic bottles. Once full, residents can use the bags to take their recyclables to their nearest recycling bin on their estate, block or development.

 As well as the new GREB’s, there will be some money available to put new bins on some estates and signage where necessary. The roll out of the bags will begin in January which ties in quite nicely with the new contract which the Council are starting on December 5th with Bywaters (Leyton) Ltd.

 Previously the Council were only able to collect paper, cardboard, glass bottles, jars, cans and plastic bottles. However, from December 5th, 2011 more materials will be able to be added including beverage cartons (Tetra Paks), mixed plastics (yoghurt pots and margarine tubs etc.) and textiles. More details about the new contract and materials will be coming up on this blog in due course.

 Housing organisations like Lewisham Homes, Phoenix, Pinnacle, Hyde Housing, London & Quadrant and Affinity Sutton have been contacted and are on board with the project and will help to spread the message to their tenants.

 Keep checking this blog for more announcements on the new materials that will be available for recycling.

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Cardboard Recycling at Lewisham Shopping Centre

Lewisham Council are involved in a partnership with Lewisham Shopping Centre to recycle the waste cardboard that is generated by the market. This has recently been extended to cover the whole market. Staff from the Markets Unit along with staff from the cleansing department are working hard to make the initiative a success and are grateful to the shopping centre for their continued support.