Town Cllr Matt Kent calls for better recycling for the residents of Lewes

For some years now I have been campaigning and petitioning  Lewes District Council to improve their recycling rates and services from our doorstep, and many residents believe they are not comprehensive enough. Throughout 2008 I helped organise and submit a petition in early 2009 to Lewes District Council to consider the following introduction of door step recycling collection services around Lewes:• 100% roadside collection of cardboard, green waste and ‘Tetrapaks’ by the end of 2009
• 100% roadside collection of lower grade plastics and packaging by the end of 2010
• All street bins with specific sections for paper, cans glass and plastics by the end of 2010
• To make Lewes District ‘Plastic Bag Free’ by the end of 2010

How Can Lewes Recycling Services Improve?

Well, from what we get collected from our doorsteps in Lewes today, you’ll probably realise that the petition (which had a good few hundred signatures) wasn’t committed to. After meeting with Lewes District Council back in Spring 2009 they were not prepared to introduce such collection services, that Lewes residents really wanted.

However, today I hope that the new administration at Lewes District Council can ‘raise the bar’ and commit to better curbside domestic recycling collections throughout 2012 and beyond, as in recent times Lewes District Council has been poorly performing compared to its neighbours in Wealden, Eastbourne and Hastings.

2009/2010 Key Performance Indicator NI192 – Percentage of Waste sent for Reuse and Recycling:

  • Lewes District Council – 24.32%
  • Brighton & Hove Council – 27.45%
  • Wealden District Council – 35.63%
  • Rother District Council – 43.13%

Lewes Residents Want a Doorstep Cardboard Collection

Recently I wrote to Lewes District Council Cabinet Member for Waste and Recycling Cllr Jim Sheppard and raised the following points:

1. Why are the recycling rates in Lewes District so low in comparison to our neighbours, and generally so lacking compared to the national average?

2. Why did recycling rates decease over 2010 / 2011 (Down 1 percent from 2009/2010 from 24% to 23%)?

3. When will doorstep cardboard collection become commonplace for both commerce and households in Lewes?

4. What percentage improvement are LDC are aiming for during 2011/2012 and 2012/2013?

Cllr Jim Sheppard explained the following:

In answer to point 1 –The answer lies entirely in the fact that we do not collect garden waste. This is because it is environmentally unsustainable and far better to compost at home, at source, thereby preventing a waste stream from arising. This is in alignment with European thinking and the waste hierarchy which ranks the most environmentally beneficial methods of treating waste. At the top of the waste hierarchy is waste reduction, followed by reuse. Only then does recycling appear, followed by disposal with various forms of recovery. Brighton & Hove take the same view and the only reason why their recycling rate is slightly higher is because they are a unitary authority and are able to include high recycling rates at their household waste recycling sites, (run by East Sussex County Council  in other East Sussex authorities), which increases the overall recycling rate. 

We receive figures from ESCC who collate all of the local authorities figures in East Sussex and for 2010/11 have put the figures above those you have quoted and also added Eastbourne and Hastings. I have split the recycling rate into green waste and dry recycling figures. Looking at dry recycling rate you can see that Hastings & Lewes are top and second performers. It is important to be careful not to restrict yourself to the common and seemingly popular “recycling rate”, it is an indicator of performance in the middle of the waste hierarchy. The most important indicator is waste per head of population. Reflecting the top of the waste hierarchy for 2010/11, the figures given by ESCC for BVP184a (as it was), Kg. waste per head of population were: 
  • Lewes – 311.25 kg
  • Hastings – 350.63 kg
  • Eastbourne – 379.6 kg
  • Rother – 398.84 kg
  • Wealden – 406.4  kg
  • Brighton & Hove – 406.97kg
Again it is clear that the best performing authority in the most important area of waste management is Lewes District Council. Please note that at the time of issue of the above figures, ESCC had put a rider on saying BV84a and BV84b are projected annual figures. Effectively, this means that they are likely to be very close but not 100% guaranteed.’
In answer to point 2 – ‘The paper tonnage collected, which makes up around half of our recycling weight  is considerably reduced, due we believe to the recession. Many local authorities have also been affected.’
In answer to point 3 – ‘In Lewes District we aim to collect (cardboard) from 80% of the population by March 2012. This will be aimed initially at the coastal areas where the majority of the population live. The limiting factor is the availability of drop off points where our vehicles can drop cardboard, (and other recyclables) locally. In Lewes we have a desperate need for a drop off point in the west of the town in particular.’
In answer to point 4 –According to our consultants report, food and cardboard waste is estimated to take us to 41%.’
From the response above, time and time again residents want their cardboard and green waste collected from their doorstep. If Wealden District Council can do it, why can’t Lewes District Council do it in Lewes. Lewes District residents may produce less waste per person, but we still recycle less compared to our District neighbours. This must still be addressed, unless both the Lewes District and East Sussex County Council have a commitment to feed the incinerator in Newhaven where much of our residual waste now goes.