Dealing with our domestic waste properly is one of the simplest things we can all do to make a start on minimising our impact on the environment. At home, this consists of simply using our kerbside bins effectively.

Unfortunately Lewisham Borough has one of the lowest rates of kerbside recycling (by weight) in the country. The recent introduction of Garden Waste and Food Waste bins to accompany the green Recycling bins have been a great start in the challenge of improving this rate – but only if they are used properly. But we are still not sorting enough of the recyclable material from our ‘residual waste’ (everything else) – and all this residual waste is incinerated at the SELCHP plant in New Cross. Opinion is divided on whether this is actually better than landfill; it does generate some electricity – but also releases emissions into the atmosphere.

It is also true that the recent banning of bulk recyclable material imports by China has caused major disruption in the worldwide markets, leading to uncertainty about what actually happens to our kerbside recycled material. We at CAL are planning to try to get full clarification from Lewisham Council about what actually happens to this – so that we can all be certian our individual efforts are worthwhile.

CAL members have also recently joined with other local activists to start planning a strategy on how we can try to improve our recycling rate by via guidance on effective use of our kerbside bins. Get in touch with us (via our Contact page) if you’re interested in getting involved in either of these initiatives.

Meanwhile, below is an overview of how to best use your kerbside collections…

Green Recycling bin

We can all agree that the information about what should and should not go in your Green Recycling bin is confusing. It has changed over the years – usually because Lewisham Council has changed contractors as contracts expire. Different contractors run different plants that have different technologies, meaning that what we can actually recycle then differs. Whilst this is often cost-effective for the Council, it does mean it has been extremely confusing for residents – not least because the stickers on many of our Green Recycling bins are often out-of-date.

You can find a guide to what can and cannot be recycled as of Autumn 2019 on the Lewisham Council website. We have also put together our own summary in the form of a table (see below), which you can also download as a PDF.

Putting non-recyclable material in green bins is ‘contamination’ that often results in entire truck loads of recycled material being rejected by recycling contractors, and sent to be incinerated.

We therefore urge everyone to double-check what they are putting in their green bins. Sad as it may seem, it is better to err on the side of caution and put anything you are not certain about in the black general waste bin.

We plan to build up an extensive A-Z list of resources, showing where items that are not currently recyclable at the kerbside can be sent. Please let us know of any schemes you are aware of, using our Contact or Facebook pages.

Food Waste

At the moment Food Waste collections are only available from houses and houses converted into flats, but Lewisham are working towards introducing food waste collections from blocks of flats, schools and businesses. The difficulty with these sites is the risk of contamination with non-food materials – which householders can generally avoid.

Correctly bagged-up food waste is sent to a specialist contractor where it is anaerobically digested, and the resulting gases (mostly methane) used to generate energy.

Food waste is collected weekly on your usual bin collection day. Ensure you keep the lid ‘locked’ to prevent foxes getting at it. You can use newspaper liner in your smaller kitchen bin instead of biodegradable bags.

It is essential that you put food waste into one of the special biodegradable bags (or wrap it in newspaper). IF YOU PUT IT IN A PLASTIC BAG IT WILL BE CONSIDERED CONTAMINATED AND SENT TO BE INCINERATED – OR NOT COLLECTED AT ALL.

What you can put in your Food Waste bin:

  • leftovers, uneaten food and plate scrapings
  • dairy products and eggs
  • bread, cakes and pastries
  • raw and cooked meat and fish, including bones
  • tea bags and coffee grounds
  • raw and cooked vegetables, mouldy fruit, peelings
  • grains and pulses including rice, pasta and beans
  • mouldy or out-of-date ready meals removed from all their packaging
  • biodegradable liner bags and newspaper liner

What you CANNOT put in your Food Waste bin:

  • packaging e.g. food and drink cartons
  • liquids e.g. milk, oil, liquid fat
  • plastic bags or bin liners
  • garden waste
  • nappies

There is more informatiom about Food Waste collection on the Lewisham Council website.