By Miranda Bryant
Lorry loads of domestic waste collected for recycling by Lewisham households are being incinerated because of minor incidents of contamination, The Platform can exclusively reveal.
Veolia, the firm contracted to handle the borough’s recycling, is routinely sending lorries away from its centre in Plumstead, because they don’t have the facility to remove unsuitable items.
A source at Greenwich council told The Platform that a stray morsel of food in a single bag of recycling is enough to break the strict criteria applied by the private contractor, employed by both councils, leaving them no choice but to burn it.
She said: “If the wrong items are collected from the street and they’re brought to the recycling centre, then the whole lorry is sent away so we have to be very careful. It happens frequently.”
Veolia did not deny the claims, but refused to elaborate on how often such incidents occur. Terry Dickenson, a senior supervisor at the firm said: “We don’t pass that sort of information on.”
In contrast, neighbouring Southwark runs its own recycling centre near Elephant and Castle, where they can sort out and remove non-recyclable items. But it seems unlikely that Lewisham would take a similar approach. A spokesperson said: “We always look to reinforce messages to residents about not contaminating their recycling waste with food matter, or other items not meant for recycling.”
“We cannot guarantee that people will stick to what can and cannot be recycled.” – A Lewisham Council spokesperson
The revelation is another disappointing blow to local green campaigners after it emerged that the ‘Greenie’ – a street bin for recycling – failed a pilot scheme in Lewisham town centre due to contamination problems.
The designer of the bin, TV presenter Matthew Bird, said councils are using the issue as an excuse to scrimp on spending: “It depends on where they send rubbish to be processed and I guess for the councils that depends on the cost of reprocessing contaminated rubbish.”