Recycle for Lewisham

A blog written for residents of Lewisham


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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


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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.