Recycle for Lewisham

A blog written for residents of Lewisham


1 Comment

Improving Quality and Tackling Contamination

When it comes to recycling, there are a couple of things that are key that everybody needs to know. The first is ensuring that what goes into your recycling bin is of the highest quality. Viridor is the contractor that takes all the materials that go into the recycling bin. They run the materials recovery facility (MRF) in Sidcup and are at pains to point out the importance of quality. As they say, poor quality in means poor quality out.

So what do we mean when we talk about quality?

Well, what we are asking our residents to do is to only put the items in the recycling bin that we ask for and those items are:

  • Tins and cans; this also includes empty aerosols. Please ensure the tins are rinsed out as this improves the quality and stops your recycling bin from smelling.
  • Glass bottles and jars; empty wine and beer bottles, jam jars (rinsed out and clean), sauce bottles (rinsed out and clean). However we don’t want cooking dishes or Pyrex. These melt at different temperatures.
  • Plastic bottles; Fizzy drinks bottles, cleaning products bottles, shampoo and shower gel bottles (all clean and rinsed out). Take out any pumps as these are a mix of materials.
  • Plastic food containers; Yoghurt pots, margarine and ice cream tubs, vegetable punnets but not the black trays that meat is packaged in.
  • Paper and cardboard; this covers newspapers, magazines, leaflets. Not pizza boxes covered in grease. Quality is the key here. Everything must be clean.
  • Food and beverage cartons; these are often referred to as the brand Tetrapaks. Typically orange juice and soup will come in these. Again we would like to see these all clean.

As you may have noticed, the word clean crops up a lot in those descriptions and this is key when we talk about quality. Processors and sorting facilities don’t want items covered in food waste, grease and oils. The MRF needs to sell on the things that you put into your recycling bin and this becomes more difficult if the items are not clean and in the best quality they can be. If you have stained pizza boxes or items covered in food, please put these in your black residual waste bin.

Contaminated bin 1

Please recycle the correct items only. Please ensure there is no green, food or nappy waste

As an update to the above, please also remember that we no longer take textiles in the recycling bins. Textiles do not survive the compacting and tipping process. Clothes end up soiled and filthy and worthless. Please use charity shops or our textile banks if you have clothes that you no longer want. This route will ensure that the item will be recycled or reused.

The second issue which relates to the first is contamination. This is a major problem. So what do we mean when we say contamination? The images above and below are extreme examples of this, but essentially what we are saying is that we only want the items in the recycling bins that we ask for. Those are the items listed above.

If you are in any doubt about an item, please use your black residual bin to dispose of it.

Comtaminated bin 1

How not to recycle.

Badly contaminated bins can lead to full loads being rejected at the Viridor MRF and when this happens, the loads are taken for incineration which Lewisham Council have to pay additional fees for. Please help us avoid this happening by only recycling the correct items making sure that everything is clean.

Please see the guide below which show what you can and cannot recycle.
What can you recycle


2 Comments

Preventing contamination is important

The Recycling Team are continually trying to communicate to its residents about the importance of putting the right things into the recycling bins to prevent contamination. Make no mistake, recycling contamination is a major issue for the council.  When the wrong items such as food and garden waste get into the recycling bins, this not only affects the bin itself, but also the rest of the load when the wet food and garden waste along with its smell and capacity to soil everything is all compacted together in the recycling vehicle.

For those that want an idea of what compacted recycling looks like when it reaches the Viridor materials recycling facility (MRF), please see the short video clip below. This is what typically happens every day when Lewisham’s recycling vehicles reach capacity and then need to tip.

Now, if you can imagine having items in the load with a large moisture and smell content (food and garden waste for example), this will spread during the compaction process. When this happens, Viridor, the contractor that sorts and separates the collected materials, will simply see the load as spoiled and look at disposing of it via incineration as a lot of the value is lost when paper and cardboard becomes unusable and valueless. When this occurs, the council are left to pick up the additional costs that are associated with disposing of the contaminated loads elsewhere.

We can’t emphasise enough how important it is to put dry, clean and correct items into the recycling bin which will ensure everything is recycled and no additional costs are generated for the council.

 


6 Comments

Plastic recycling – the do’s and don’ts

When it comes to plastics and recycling, the picture can be a bit confusing for residents all wanting to do the right thing. There are just so many different types of plastics in the world, plastics that people use everyday, which many people assume can be recycled.

Plastics come in all shapes and sizes and whilst we do ask for all your milk bottles and plastic bottles, it doesn’t necessarily mean we want every type of plastic.

So what are the plastics we don’t want? The following list details some of the items that Viridor, our current contractor and materials recovery facility operator told us they can’t recycle:

  • Laminated plastics – these can go into your refuse bin
  • CDs and cases and their transparent sleeves – charity shops or the refuse bin
  • Childrens toys – to the local Reuse and Recycling Centre or toy libary
  • Electrical appliances – to Reuse & Recycling Centre or a WEEE bank
  • Video and music cassettes – these can go into your refuse bin
Videos, music cassettes, toys, laminated documents, electrical items cannot be recycled in your green bin

Videos, music cassettes, toys, laminated documents and electrical items cannot be recycled using your green bin

New technologies have made video and music cassettes redundant but many people still have lots of these at home. These are made up of plastic, metal and tape which becomes entangled in the sorting equipment if they end up in the recycling bin. We don’t have any facilities to collect these and the nearest place to process and recycle them is in Bristol.

There are also other ways to make use of some items as well. For example CDs can be used as bird scarers if you’re a gardener or have an allotment. Freecycle could also be seen as a way finding a home for these items as local community projects might be able to use them (often projects like things with different textures and colours to create mosaics for example) or pass them on to friends and family, or sell them on online sites.

Another item that we’d like to see out of the recycling bin is clothing and textiles. Whilst we have been collecting them in the recycling bin when we were with a different contractor, the time has come to change this. We are now asking residents not to use this route and instead use our textile banks or your local charity shops.

Please take clothing to a textile banks or a charity shop

Please take clothing to a textile bank or a charity shop and avoid using your recycling bin

This is because the quality is massively reduced when clothes and textiles are put into the bin. After leaving the bin they are tipped into a truck and then tipped again and sorted at the materials recovery facility (MRF). This isn’t what you’d call a very clean operation and as you can imagine, the clothes get very dirty, smelly and reduced in quality and value. By placing textiles in our textile banks you can be sure someone will be able to enjoy the benefits of your generosity. Visit this link to see where our textile banks are, http://www.lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/wasterecycle/textile-recycling/Pages/Textile-recycling-banks.aspx

As a general rule of thumb regarding recycling, we say that if it’s not on the sticker on your recycling bin, then please put the item into your refuse bin.

Full details here: http://www.lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/wasterecycle/Pages/What-can-i-put-in-my-recycling-bin.aspx


6 Comments

New locks coming to a recycling bin near you!

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.

Locks on bins

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 get a leaflet through your door soon to tell you more about this. There is also a competition which you can enter to win a shopping voucher- so keep an eye out for it on your door mat!

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


1 Comment

Working with recycling crews to tackle contamination

Over the last few weeks, the recycling department has been going out with crews to see some of the issues they face whilst carrying out their collection duties. We are trying to work closer with the crews to tackle the main issue of contamination as it causes the most problems for the Council.

The recycling crews have been told to check the recycling bins before they are loaded into the truck to ensure that everything in them conforms to the sticker which every household should have on their bin. They are looking out for items such as black sacks which are a problem as the crews don’t know what’s inside the sack. This could range from food and nappy waste through to green garden waste.

The crews are working together to tackle issues with contamination.

The crews are working together to tackle issues with contamination.

All these are a problem for a number of reasons. Food and garden waste is wet and soggy and will start to smell if it’s been left in a wheelie bin for over a week. If this isn’t spotted, or a resident tries to hide the waste underneath the recycling, then it will get tipped into a recycling truck.

If this happens, the waste will be compacted and the wet, smelling contaminants will spread throughout the load and render the hard work of other recyclers void as much of the recycling won’t be used and will instead have to go for incineration.

As well as garden, food and nappy waste, many people think that items such as wood can be recycled at the materials recovery facility. This is incorrect. Whilst wood can be recycled by being chipped and turned into other products, putting it into the recycling bins is not the right way of achieving this. If wood, broken brollies, old electrical equipment, baby’s buggy’s, pieces of furniture and polystyrene amongst many other items are put into the recycling bins, then the bin is being contaminated.

"It's all about the team work."

Steve’s team collects the large bins on estates.

When this happens, our crew will tag the bin so that the resident is aware of the issue. The address is taken down and a letter is sent to the resident explaining why the bin wasn’t collected and what they need to do. If the contamination behaviour continues, then another letter is distributed. If a third letter is distributed following the continuation of the contamination, the Council will take action and remove the bin entirely. A letter will be sent to the resident notifying them of this action.

The taking away of the bin however is a last resort and we’d prefer to work with residents in the first instance to get them using the bins correctly before we get to this stage. As a general rule of thumb for those that aren’t sure of what can be recycled, we say that if the item that you want to recycle doesn’t appear on the sticker of the bin, then please don’t put it into your recycling bin and use your regular refuse bin instead.


Leave a comment

Why can’t I put nappies in my recycling bin?

For those that have had the opportunity to visit a materials recycling facility and seen the people that stand next to the conveyor belt picking off contaminated items to improve the quality of the material, they will be aware that these people doing the picking also have to deal with disposable nappies  – which isn’t very pleasant.

As part of our series of using infomercials to get the recycling message across, this week we focus on the problems of putting disposable nappies in the recycling bin. Take it away…….


1 Comment

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