Recycle for Lewisham

A blog written for residents of Lewisham

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Recycling team attend busy Hilly Fields Summer Fayre

Heavy clouds and a sprinkling of rain didn’t deter anyone from enjoying the Hilly Fields Summer Fayre and our stall certainly had a constant flow of visitors. With nearly 250 festival goers coming up to our recycling trailer we had one busy day!

On top of helping residents with recycling questions, we discussed with many people about whether they’d like Lewisham to introduce a new subscription based garden waste collection and even the possibility of food waste services in the future. We were happy to hear lots of positive comments about these ideas.

Nearly 250 people visited our recycling trailer

Nearly 250 people visited our recycling trailer (photo: Mr Kiley)


Residents left happy taking away freebies such as tough reusable carrier bags for recycling and handy kitchen items to keep food fresher for longer and were also signing up for free composting workshops that are coming up soon (see below for details). All in all, a great day was had!

To book on to a free composting workshop, please visit


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!

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Rain, sun and more rain at the Bellingham Festival

This weekend the Recycling team made yet another appearance on the Lewisham festival circuit. The Bellingham Festival was held on Saturday 28th June at Bellingham Green.

Table at the ready!

Table at the ready!

The event was arranged by Phoenix Housing and was a celebration of life in the ward. Local choirs sang, knick knacks were sold and a good time was had by all. But it nearly didn’t happen. At approximately 11am the heavens opened and it looked like the day would be a total wash out. Thankfully, it was only a brief downpour and we were able to get in a good 3 hours of festivities.

But then at 2.45 disaster struck! The rain came and this time it wasn’t alone, it brought some thunder with it too. People tried to brave it but it was relentless and we all got absolutely soaked!

In any case everybody enjoyed the day and we spoke to over 30 people about recycling and composting. So we couldn’t really ask for much more than that. Could we?

Next stop – People’s Day. See you then.


International Composting Week turns out more Green Thumbs in Lewisham!

What do seaweed, urine, nettles and grass clippings have in common? They are all rich in Nitrogen and are a fabulous food source within your compost. And what do loo rolls, sticks, scrunched paper and dried leaves have in common? They are all high in Carbon and provide the necessary structure and air pockets for your compost.

The finished product

The finished product

Together these types of ingredients provide the ideal environment for millions of micro-organisms and other creatures such as worms, wood lice, fruit fly, snails and beetles to live. They’ll make homes and munch away at your garden and kitchen waste turning it into compost.

A full compost bin ready for the garden

A full compost bin ready for the garden

Here at Lewisham, we’ve just celebrated International Composting Week by running 6 free workshops where nearly 60 people learnt how to set up and maintain a healthy compost at home.  Some had already started composting but needed help to get the best result out of it, however many had never done any composting before attending the course. Regardless of experience everyone who attended were enthused to compost even more…

Leave it in a warm place in the garden

Leave it in a warm place in the garden

“(The course) was informative and encouraging. I got good ideas for tackling my compost without it sounding difficult…”

A 220 litre compost bin

A 220 litre compost bin

 “(The course) was fun, well delivered, and was a nice atmosphere and location… got me in the mood for more gardening!”

Peelings, grass clippings, tea bags etc. can all go into the compost bin

Peelings, grass clippings, tea bags etc. can all go into the compost bin

We hope to run more sessions later in the year, so if you are interested in coming along, keep an eye out on the Council’s website or in Lewisham Life for advertised sessions.

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Composting workshops 2013

Lewisham Council is offering free composting workshops that you, your family or your friends may be interested in. The workshops will give you lots of tips and information and you will learn how to compost properly so that you can turn kitchen and garden waste into good useful compost that can be used on your garden.

Learn how to set up a compost bin, what can and cannot go into a compost bin, getting the right mix and trouble shooting. There’s no need to bring anything apart from yourself but if you could be there five minutes before starting time, that would be great.

Mr Compost says 'Come along and learn how to make some good quality compost for your garden.'

Mr Compost says ‘Come along and learn how to make some good quality compost for your garden.’

The dates and locations are as follows:

Wearside Depot 7 May 10am to 11.15am

Devonshire Road Nature Reserve 7 May 4.30pm to 5.45pm

Devonshire Road Nature Reserve 8 May 10am to 11.15am

Devonshire Road Nature Reserve 8 May 6.30pm to 7.45pm

Dacres Wood 9 May  12 noon to 1pm

Wearside Depot 9 May 7pm to 8.15pm

Booking information

Contact: Kristina Binns
Tel:020 8314 2145

Looking forward to seeing lots of people there.

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Council staff help primary school build compost bin from disused pallets

Many schools across the borough compost their food waste and children are very accustomed to placing the skins from their bananas and their apple cores into a compost bin at the end of break time.  However, composting at one local school – Horniman Primary, was so successful that they ran out of space- with their compost bin overflowing with fruit, vegetable peelings and shredded paper.

 The dilemma facing the school council was what they should do with all their kitchen and garden waste,  so under guidance from their class teacher- Mrs Brand, they put pen to paper and wrote to the Environment and Community Development (ECD) team requesting help. 

Rosie Holland (Horniman School) with a Waste Prevention Officer and Martin Warner (Pest Control)

 Keen to encourage the school to reuse and reduce their waste, members from the ECD team offered a couple of hours of their time to build the school a new, larger capacity compost bin.  Using old pallets accrued from deliveries to the teams Wearside offices, they set about building the new bin aided by an officer from Lewisham’s pest control team who made the bin rodent proof. Also helping was the schools gardener- Rosie Holland.

Reusing and recycling old pallets to construct the compost bin.

Two members of the school council Jamal Suleiman and Isabella Lloyd were amongst the first to use the new bin, starting it off by putting in garden waste.

Children from Horniman Primary School start to use the new composter made from the pallets.

If you want to start composting, Lewisham Council still has some compost bins to give away for free. If you would like one, please email  If you want to find out more about composting, you can also attend one of our free composting workshops which are being run on 1st, 3rd, 5th and 6th of September.  If you are interested, please email

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New Compost Workshops 2012

Composting is an inexpensive, natural process that transforms your kitchen and garden waste into a valuable and nutrient rich food for your garden. It’s easy to make and use.

Composting reduces waste and is good for the garden

Do your bit to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill. Even for households that are already composting, new research has found that almost half of the food waste in their rubbish bins could have been composted. Did you know, composting at home for just one year can save global warming gases equivalent to all the CO2 your kettle produces annually, or your washing machine produces in three months?

Compost is a nutrient-rich food product for your garden and will help improve soil structure, maintain moisture levels, and keep your soil’s PH balance in check while helping to suppress plant disease. It will have everything your plants need including nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium and it will help buffer soils that are very acidic or alkaline. Compost improves your soil’s condition and your plants and flowers will love it!

So why not book onto one of the following courses…they’re free!

June Course (Hurry! Nearly full)

June 13

Meet at the security office, at 6.30pm for a prompt 6.40pm start finishing at 7.50pm. Wearside Depot, Wearside Road, SE13 7EZ

September Courses

Saturday 01 Sept

Devonshire Road Nature Reserve, Forest Hill, SE23. (The site entrance is opposite Tyson Road)

9.30am – 10.45am or 11am – 12.15pm

Monday 03 Sept

Dacres Wood, Dacres Rd, Forest Hill, SE23 2NZ (The site entrance is adjacent to Homefield House)

11am -12.15pm

Wednesday 05 Sept

Downham Library within the Downham Health and Leisure Centre, 7-9 Moorside Road, BR1 5EP

5pm – 6.15pm or 7pm – 8.15pm

Thursday 06 Sept

Downham Library (as above)

11am – 12.15pm or 1pm – 2.15pm

Booking is essential.

To book, please email:

(title email ‘compost workshop’, state which date, session time and how many people will attend. Please also include your phone details)

Alternatively call 020 8314 2145 to leave a detailed message, stating which date, session time and how many people will attend.