Lewisham Council recently conducted an eight-week consultation on possible changes to our waste and recycling services. The consultation – Let’s Talk Rubbish – was extensive and exhaustive. It included an online survey, an online video, focus groups, a citizens’ forum to discuss the issue in detail to 50 local residents, discussion at 16 local assembly meetings, an article and survey in our residents’ magazine Lewisham Life which goes to over 100,000 households, emails to more than 24,000 residents, direct contact to over 100 community organisations and local media coverage. I was determined that this consultation would be thorough and robust. I was also delighted that more than 6,000 people responded - making this the biggest consultation we have ever undertaken. I hope that, as well as getting the valuable views of our local community, we also helped raise awareness of why we need to change and the options we have.
I am extremely proud that in Lewisham we send less than 1% of our rubbish to landfill – that’s one of the very lowest rates in the country. This clearly helps our environment and saves Lewisham millions of pounds in landfill tax and charges. We burn 80% of our rubbish with the heat from this being converted into electricity.
We currently recycle, reuse or compost about 17% of what we throw away. We need to improve this. Changes to the law and a national target to recycle, reuse or compost 50% of all our waste means we have to do more or risk significant fines in the future. Whatever changes we make to our services will be designed to achieve this. We need also to save money, given the Tory Government have severely reduced funding to the Council. The share scale of the Tory cuts forced on us require the Council to look for savings in every area.
No decisions have yet been taken. We are looking through the feedback from the consultation and considering our options. We will make a decision about what course to follow in January 2016. Any new arrangements will have to show they offer real value for money and will improve our recycling performance. The decision will be made in a public meeting, and local people would be more than welcome to come along. We must ensure that our recycling and waste services are reliable and simple for residents. But we must also drive up levels of recycling and make savings.
I would like to reassure everyone that before any changes are made to collections the Council will fully explain how the changes will affect people.
Councillor Rachel Onikosi, Cabinet Member for Public Realm