Last year Lewisham was 349th out of 351 local authorities across the country for recycling. South Oxfordshire was top with 66% recycled, Lewisham recycled only 18.0%. The European target is 70%.

Cllr Rachel Onikosi, Cabinet Member Public Realm (pictured), told us how the council is going to improve.

Q: Why are we so bad at recycling?
A: Honest answer – because we used to burn 80% of it and burning no longer counts as recycling.

Note: The South East London Combined Heat and Power incinerator in New Cross turns waste to energy and heats homes in Southwark. The major argument made against these plants is that they lock councils into long term contracts that commit them to supply a certain amount of waste and pay the incinerator for the service. They also produce greenhouse gases and dioxins.

Q: So how do you persuade people to recycle?
A: I wouldn’t say many residents think about it. In Lewisham deprivation and the language barrier get in the way. We have to re-educate people.

Q: What happens to the contents of our green bins?
A: It’s co-mingled (mixed up) and sorted out at a material recovery centre run by Viridor. But we have a problem with contaminants – for example, we find a lot of green bins contain nappies or sanitary towels and that may mean a truckload can’t be recycled. We’ll be putting new stickers on green bins to tell you what to recycle.

Q: So why are you going down to fortnightly black bin collections?
A: We want to encourage people to use the new food waste bins and their green and brown bins which will still be collected weekly. Residents will get small food caddies to keep indoors and lockable small food waste bins for outside. They’ll arrive from June on. It’s been done in other parts of London and it’s been successful. People on council or private estates won’t be affected.

Q: You’ve said we have to buy composting bags for food but they cost 12p each (for a roll of 25) in Sainsbury’s.
A: We will provide one roll of bags and you can use newspapers.


What can go in

What cannot go in


Metal tins and cans – empty

Aluminium and steel food and drink cans, biscuit tins, lids and any other tin or can.


No full tins or cans.​


Tin and aluminium foil – clean

Kitchen foil and metal takeaway meal containers.


No dirty foil.​


Aerosol cans – empty

Cleaning products, deodorants, shaving foam and other aerosol cans.

Aerosol cans must be empty as the container is a gas cylinder.​


No full or part full aerosol cans.​


Plastic food containers – clean

Margarine tubs, yoghurt pots, takeaway containers, coffee cups, fruit and vegetable punnets, meat trays, ready meal food trays, ice cream containers and any other plastic container.


No dirty or full containers.

No polystyrene.


Plastic bottles – empty

Soft drink bottles, cleaning product and bleach bottles, shampoo and toiletry bottles and any other plastic bottle. Please put lids in separately.​


No dirty or full bottles.​


Plastic bags and plastic film

Plastic sacks, supermarket carrier bags, sandwich bags, cellophane, plastic wrap (like cling film) and other film plastic.


No black sacks.


Food and beverage cartons – empty

Large and small juice cartons, soup cartons and any other beverage carton. These cartons are made by companies like Tetra Pak, Elopak and SIG Combibloc.


No full cartons.​


Glass bottles – clean

Any type of glass bottles including: wine bottles, vinegar bottles, olive oil bottles, perfume bottles and any other glass bottle.

Glass jars – clean

Any kind of glass jars including: jam jars, honey jars, pickle jar and any other glass jar.

Remember clear and coloured glass accepted!

Lids from glass jars or bottles can be kept on or taken off.


Window glass, broken glass, light bulbs, fluorescent tubes, pyrex, ceramics or ovenware.

Recycle your light bulbs at the reuse and recycling centre.


Paper – clean

Most paper, including newspapers, magazines, junk mail, envelopes, corrugated paper and greetings cards.


No tissue or toilet paper.

No wallpaper.

No dirty or soiled paper.


Books, telephone directories and catalogues

Please note: charity shops are still the best place to take books that are in good condition.


Cardboard – clean


All cardboard including heavy cardboard boxes, cereal boxes, egg boxes and any other type of cardboard.

Make sure large cardboard boxes are flattened.​

​No dirty or soiled cardboard.


Shredded paper

Both straight and cross shredded paper is ok.​


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