The lowdown

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 certain our individual efforts are worthwhile.

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

Buy zero/low waste - a guide to shopping options

Green Recycling bin

Lewisham green recycling binWe 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been extremely confusing for residents – not least because the stickers on many of our Green Recycling bins are often out-of-date.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 on the Lewisham Council website.

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.

Here is a downloadable list of contaminants  Please print and share.

This table should help you dispose of materials most effectively and please check our guide to where to recycle awkward things in Lewisham

Lewisham Green Bin?
Elsewhere in Lewisham?
General rubbish (Black Bin)
Batteries (household AA, AAA etc) NO YES (supermarkets and libraries) No (hazardous waste)
Clean cardboard YES YES (Landmann Way) X
Dirty cardboard ie fast food boxes NO NO YES
Crisp bags NO NO YES
Tetrapack cartons YES X
Electrical items NO YES If working: Charity shops. If broken: WEE waste at Landmann Way/Electrical shops X
Food NO Kerbside food collection for houses (not flats)
Garden waste NO YES (kerbside paid garden waste collection) X
Glass bottles YES (take lids off) YES (some supermarket recycling banks) X
Broken glass NO NO YES
Metal aerosol cans YES X
Metal cans (aluminium/steel) & jar lids YES (clean these) X
Scrap metal NO YES (Landmann Way)
Paper (including leaflets, magazines, newspapers, phone directories) YES X
Paper loo rolls and tissues NO NO YES
Black plastic food trays NO (machines can’t detect) NO YES
Clear/white plastic ie milk bottles, food trays, yoghurt pots, cleaning products, shampoo bottles YES X
Plastic film NO NO YES
Hard plastic (ie tupperware, toys) NO NO YES
Plastic bags (ie supermarket, bread) NO YES (at many supermarkets. Consider re-use of as much as possible)
Plastic bottles YES (leave lid on) X
Polystyrene packaging & takeaway containers & cups NO NO YES
Rubber NO NO YES
Clean textiles (clothes, sheets, towels, paired shoes) NO YES (Charity shops, Clothes banks, towels & quilts to animal shelters ie Celia Hammond. Consider regifting/upcycling clothes) X
Wood NO YES (at Landmann Way)

Food Waste

Lewisham food recycling binAt 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 compostable bags.

It is essential that you put food waste into one of the special compostable 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 information about Food Waste collection on the Lewisham Council website.

If you have a garden, think about creating a compost. It is easy and the result can be added to your plants, reducing the compost you will need to buy.

In your garden compost you can add:
  • raw vegetable peelings
  • raw fruit and vegetable if not eaten (rotten, mouldy)
  • tea bags and coffee grounds
  • crushed egg shells
  • brown paper bags
  • egg boxes
  • It is good to add cardboard (such as egg shell boxes for eg) to aerate the organic matter.
How about making your own?

See a film by Lewisham resident Jake about making your own compost.