Lewisham's head of environment, Nigel Tyrell has a blog. He very wisely steers clear of politics but uses it to let people know about new initiatives within the team, developments on the lovelewisham site etc. It's well worth adding to your blogroll.
Earlier this week came the welcome announcement that Lewisham is going to start offering a free mattress collection and recycling service, in partnership with a new company, Matt-UK, which has set up near our Landmann's Way waste site. All you have to do is get a sticker from the local library, put it on the mattress and leave it out on the evenign before your normal waste day and it will be taken away. They estimate that they will be able to recycle about 97% of the materials and sell them on to be made into new products, while also avoiding waste going to landfill or (in Lewisham's case) incineration. Sounds like a great idea to me. The icing on the cake would be to have a market to sell on the recyclate in the UK, rather than Asia, but it looks like that isn't possible just yet.
The other good bit of news, which is something I know a number of councillors have flagged up before, is that bins are going to have stickers on them explaining what can/can't be recycled. The ones we had before looked great, but didn't have the necessary detail on them, so many people have been unsure about what can/can't go in their green bin. Hopefully this will help to reduce the recycling contamination rates, which are currently very high in certain parts of the borough and result in a lot of the recyclate collected being incinerated rather than recycled, because it has got food or garden waste mixed in with it. (Pat on the back for Brockley and Ladywell, which our waste officers said had the lowest level of contamination in green bins, when they carried out a waste analysis).
And of course, at the end of last year the battery recycling scheme started at Lewisham libraries and the Christmas tree recycling service is again being well used by residents locally, judging by the numbers of them piling up on the corners of Hilly Fields. You can find details of these and other recycling facilities on the waste and recycling page on the Council's website.
These are all good initiatives and I don't want to belittle the progress that has been made, but Lewisham still has a pretty low recycling rate compared to other boroughs and there is lots more we need to do. One of my bug bears at the moment are the things that you struggle to recycle if you don't have a car to take them to Landmanns Way. Things like broken electrical goods, which you shouldn't put in wheelie bins. Also, the garden waste scheme that ran over the summer, while better than nothing, wasn't much use for us gardeners without cars (and only about half the borough owns a car). I've lost track of the number of residents on the doorstep who've asked when they are getting their brown wheelie bins back (a garden waste collection pilot that took place a couple of years back). I've also got a whole stash of defunct low energy light bulbs in my cellar waiting for an opportunity to recycle them.
The other thing I'm keen to see some progress on is what happens to our collected paper, cardboard and glass. British paper mills won't take paper and cardboard that has been collected together with glass, as happens in Lewisham, so it is generally shipped abroad (China or Malaysia, if I recall correctly) where there is a market for it. Likewise, because the glass has been crushed and the colours mixed, it is unsuitable for reycling back into glass, so is used for aggregate for roads etc. Unfortunately any solution is likely to cost more and/or add an extra layer of complication into recycling for local residents, as it would either involve separate bins for paper and glass, separate recycling days (eg one week paper, one week glass), extra rubbish trucks on the roads collecting them separately or perhaps a return to the street corner recycling bins for glass.
Another thing that residents often ask about, is why tetrapaks and other juice cartons can't be collected in the green bins. Until now, the problem has been that because they are mixed materials (card, plastic and metal), the MRF (materials recycling facility) have been unable to separate them mechanically, as they do with the other types of recycling. I understand that we might be getting some good news about this in a few months, but in the meantime, juice cartons can still be taken to a number of reycling points in the borough, including New Cross Sainsbury and Lewisham Tesco.
What would be next on your shopping list to improve waste and recycling facilities in Lewisham?