Recycle for Lewisham

A blog written for residents of Lewisham


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Upcycling better than recycling!

Upcycling (as defined by Wikipedia) is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value. This sounds like a great idea – but how does this work in practice?

…well a clever blog “bachelor degrees online” have compiled a list of “80 upcycling for your dorm room” – whilst we realise that most visitors to the Recycle for Lewisham site will neither live in dorm rooms or the US, most of these ideas can be carried out in all homes (given a certain amount of time and patience).

Our personal favourites are the “toothbrush toothbrush holder”, “wine corkboard” and the “blue jean organizer”, whether you think that these ideas are examples of upcycling or recycling depends on if you think political signs are more useful than cardboard chairs!


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Lewisham’s recycling rate gets a mention

Yesterday Lewisham’s recycling rate was cited on the Guardian Environment Blog so I thought it would be appropriate to provide a response on our own blog (which was also mentioned). 

The first issue that needs raising is that the blog posting appears to favour incineration as a means of waste disposal, referencing Germany as an example of good practice. The blog then describes Lewisham’s recycling rate as miserable and poses the question “Do you actually like landfill tips, Lewisham?”. The latest comparable data (2008/9) shows that Lewisham has the 4th lowest rate of municipal waste sent to landfill in the country and an even lower rate for household waste at 3.72% (although this figure is now a couple of years old it is unlikely that it will have changed significantly). The majority of waste in Lewisham is incinerated, and that waste is turned into electricity which is in turn fed into the national grid. So the answer would be no we don’t like landfill tips. 

Secondly I would like to address the issue of our recycling rate of 16.8%, firstly this is a low recycling rate when compared to other Local Authorities nationally, however it is slightly unfair to be comparing the recycling rates in Lewisham with those in Staffordshire Moorlands (62%). The inner city demographics of Lewisham provide additional challenges in terms of sustainable waste management, including differing housing stocks, lack of and size of gardens and storage as well as a higher proportion of hard to engage groups with transient populations. 

It would perhaps be fairer to compare recycling rates in Lewisham with other London Local Authorities, where again at first sight Lewisham appears to be under performing. However if the figures are looked at in a bit more depth the situation is a more favourable. Looking at the first six months of 2009/10 data for dry recycling (excluding garden and food waste collection) shows that Lewisham is ranked the 7th best performer in terms of dry recycling collection at the kerbside across London.  

Why do we believe looking at the dry recycling rate is more relevant than the overall recycling rate? – In Lewisham we believe that our recycling collection (and therefore rate) should be viewed in the broader context of the impact on the environment and carbon reduction measures. The reason for many local authorities high recycling rates is the provision of food and garden waste collections, which by weight contribute significantly to the overall recycling rate (approximately 1/3 of your average household bin is organic waste – in Lewisham this is closer to 40%).  

We have previously laid out the reasons for not collecting food or garden waste on this blog, but it essentially boils down to the fact that it would be neither environmentally nor economically beneficial and would achieve nothing more than to artificially inflate our recycling rate. We prefer to encourage residents to reduce waste in the first instance and compost waste at home (especially food and garden waste) rather than give it to us to recycle/compost. We take the view this is a much more environmentally sound policy.Other local authorities who choose to provide food and garden waste collections and therefore boast much higher recycling/composting rates usually have very high overall waste per household figures, due to these collections. These authorities also have different drivers such as Landfill tax, so the monetary pressures heavily influence their decisions.  

In Lewisham we take sustainable waste management very seriously, we focus on waste minimisation as well as recycling by promoting the Love Food Hate Waste programme, Home Composting through composting workshops and offering free compost bins (last summer we ran 18 compost workshops and gave away 1,700 free compost bins), as well as running campaigns around real nappies, reusing shopping bags, not buying bottled water and stopping junk mail which all help in reducing waste in the waste stream. We believe the way in which we currently manage our waste is both responsible and sustainable.


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Love Christmas – Hate Waste

As Christmas is fast approaching I thought it might be pertinent to do a Christmas related waste post… Without wanting to sound like a scrooge, Christmas is a time of both excessive consumption and waste. Whilst I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a couple of extra mince pies or give your loved ones presents, there are a few things you can do to make your Christmas a little less wasteful:

1. Portion Control – shops are only shut for a couple of days so there is no need to buy excessive amounts of food, save money and reduce waste by thinking about how many people you will be feeding and how much they are really going to eat. You can use the Christmas perfect portions page on the Love Food Hate Waste website to plan your meals. Remember if you do find that you have over estimated you can also ….

2. Use up your leftovers – Visit the same website to find some Christmas left over recipes that will give you some great alternatives (and additions) to the classic turkey sandwich. Left over food is also being dealt with on London wide basis with the funding of a Surplus food centre in time for Christmas, the project will provide 800,000 meals for the needy.

3. Recycle your wrapping paper – So you’ve unwrapped all of your Christmas presents and have a wrapping paper mountain you need to clear to be able to watch the Christmas telly, the good news is that YOU CAN RECYCLE all of your wrapping paper, so pop it in your green bin or box.   

4. Pack your decorations away – Around 500 tonnes of old Christmas tree lights are thrown away each year, coupled with a huge amount of baubles and decorations! By taking down and packing away your decorations carefully you’ll have a lot less broken light bulbs and it will make it much easier to put it all up again next year.

5. Recycle your Christmas tree – If you haven’t bought a planted or plastic tree, the final act of Christmas is usually the ritual of throwing the Christmas tree into the back garden, where it gets left until the spring when you start to venture out into the garden and discover a very sad looking, needleless brown tree! Lewisham provide 12 sites throughout the borough where you can recycle your old Christmas trees for free.

Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


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Love Food Hate Waste

Lewisham Council are putting on some free Love Food Hate Waste workshops …

What’s it all about? Love Food Hate Waste is the ‘Waste Not Want Not’ of the modern day, providing handy tips, advice and recipes for leftovers to help everyone waste less food.

Why? 8.3 million tonnes of food is thrown away by households in the UK every year. Reducing food waste is a major issue and not just about good food going to waste; wasting food costs the average family with children £680 a year and has serious environmental implications too.

Lewisham Council are holding the workshop to discuss handy tips on how to store or use up left-overs, give you some great ideas about meal planning and discovering all the types of food that can be frozen. If you’re interested use the contact details below.

 


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Get Composting …

Lewisham Council is putting on free composting workshops for residents.

A local resident who attended one of Lewisham’s composting workshops gave us some feedback on the session,  if the sessions are this good surely you have to give it a go … 

“What a useful and interesting way to spend a Sunday morning!

The style of the session allowed me to take in the message and when I got home, I ran through the principles with my husband and son, who got so engaged, they immediately went to shred some paper to add to the compost bin.

The instructor was engaging, knowledgable, and brilliant at getting the message across. If I hadn’t done the course, I would be just bunging in waste and hoping for the best. Now I feel I understand the principles thank you so much”

If you already own a compost bin you’ll be able to learn if what you’re putting in there is right and how to get the correct mix to create good quality compost. If you don’t already own a compost bin you can order or pick one up (for free) and get composting!

For further details and to book a place …

Call: 02083142145

Email: kristina.binns@lewisham.gov.uk


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Does recycling make us green?

I noticed an interesting article on George Mombiot’s Blog on the Guardian website which discusses how taking relatively small actions such as recycling tin cans allow people to overlook the bigger actions such as driving the car when public transport will do!

Recycling everything in the green bin often acts as a green badge of honour for people and in some peoples minds means that they are absolved of other responsibilities. George Mombiot cites an example from a couple of years ago when Tesco’s were offering flights as a reward for recycling energy saving light bulbs.

This leads me on to the topic of waste prevention and trying to communicate this message, whilst recycling is (sometimes) a relatively simple message to communicate (place X,X and X in your green box and it will be collected on Friday morning) waste prevention is a different ball game altogether.

A piece of research recently carried out by Defra indicates that there is no single behaviour which constitutes “waste prevention” and it can range from donating goods to charity, through small reuse behaviours around the home; to activities that involve changes in consumption habits. Furthermore the report states that the “the public seems genuinely confused about what waste prevention means”.

All of this means that communicating information about waste prevention is difficult and attempting to do so can provide mixed messages. Lewisham Council are supporting the WRAP led campaign Love Food Hate Waste which targets one material stream but the impacts of are both

In some cases recycling acts as a barrier to waste prevention – people think they have done enough by recycling something where in truth they should be thinking if they needed to acquire the item in the first place, or have made a decision to buy an item with less packaging.

Whilst there is obvious responsibility with Local Authorities and Governments to deal with a lot of these issues – is it going to take a big change in the publics attitudes to make a real difference and what can a local authority do to influence this?


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Compost your food and Garden Waste

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 even More inexpensive in Lewisham because we offer FREE COMPOST BINS to all of our residents, just email recycle@lewisham.gov.uk ,let us know your address and we’ll get one dropped round.

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.

Composting is also really good for the Environment, by composting at home for just one year can save global warming gases equivalent to all the CO2 your kettle produces annually, and if you’re a keen gardener what you produce will be a nutrient-rich food product for your garden which will help improve soil structure, maintain moisture levels, and keep your soil’s PH balance in check while helping to suppress plant disease.

If you’re new to composting or feel that you’ve never quite got the hang of it you can visit recycle now or garden organic for some excellent tips including where to put your bin (there is a science behind it!) and what to put in it, come the summer Lewisham Council should be running more composting workshops!