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

http://www.lewisham.gov.uk/gardenwaste


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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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Green Police out in force again at People’s Day 2013

The 2013 People’s Day saw Lewisham’s recycling team out in force again as Green Police – serving and protecting the environment.

PC Brinson and PC Swift out on patrol at People's Day

PC Brinson and PC Swift out on patrol at People’s Day

This year we were fighting the environmental battle on three fronts. On one stand we were tackling recycling and waste management issues, on another we were running composting workshops, whilst on a third stand, we worked in partnership with Love Food Hate Waste to run cooking demo’s and advise people how to get the most out of buying, cooking and storing food.  Also helping that day was Ed Van Reenen from Bywaters where all of the boroughs recycling is processed.

The Green Police Recycling Team with Monica and her daughter Lilian from Love Food Hate Waste.

The Green Police Recycling Team with Monica and her daughter Lilian from Love Food Hate Waste and Ed from Bywaters.

With so many people visiting us, we took the opportunity to speak to them about the new Service Standards that are now coming in to force which some people were still unaware of. The Service Standards are being rolled out borough-wide and are designed to standardise both the refuse and recycling service. Under the Standards, residents will have to bring their refuse and recycling bins to the inside boundary of their property. As people are now reducing their waste considerably these days, our crews will assume that if the bin isn’t at the boundary of the property, then the resident is either on holiday or doesn’t want a collection that week.

As well as all of the above, the recycling team were raffling off some environmentally friendly products to lucky winners. The prizes were either a wireless meter reader that tells you how much electricity you are using, a device for turning all your gadgets and electrical devices off from standby or a wind up radio and torch.

A lucky winner receives an energy monitor from PC Parkinson.

A lucky winner receives an energy monitor from one of our green police officers

Regular draws were made throughout the afternoon and many people went home very happy with a prize that will help them reduce their electricity bills or save them buying batteries for their radio.

Even in the searing heat, the Green Police still managed to talk to lots of residents and many cooking demonstrations also took place. Overall a very productive day for the team with no arrests being made for people recycling the wrong things.