The Kitchen Waste Budget #2 and other considerations multipost

In the Mayor and Cabinet document about waste management proposals dated 9th April 2009 (link) at paragraph 3.7 one can read that:

Unfortunately, the investment in recycling services is not sufficient to roll out a borough wide garden waste service.

Paragraph 3.20 says that:

The Council is also keen to assist people through this recession and a further way in which this can be done is through the Love Food Hate Waste campaign. The WCA showed that the dominant category in the residual waste was organic catering amounting to 29.8%, or 3.54kg per household of food waste being thrown into the refuse bin each week. For Lewisham, this equates to 405 tonnes a week costing the Council nearly £20,000 for disposal. In annual terms this is 21,060 tonnes costing over £1m. On average the food that is wasted accounts for approximately £420 per household per year / 0.8 tonnes CO2 equivalent per household – £610 for households with children. In addition there is the environmental cost in terms of food production, transportation, refrigeration and disposal, all contributing to green house gases.

And so it is, they think this costs £1m when instead it costs £4m.
In the last sentence the argument of the cost of disposal is touched but only as a general consideration about the green house gases produced.

This is a spectacular example of disjointed thinking, they own an incinerator that produces energy by combustion and by bringing there their kitchen waste they feed it with lots of water. Which of course doesn’t burn that well.

They waste millions each year and apparently they don’t even know about it.
And even going at Council to try to explain to the Mayor that the Council is missing on a major trick, as I did last week, doesn’t seems to work much.

(you may want to read my previous post the Kitchen Waste Budget)


A consideration about the figures.

This document evaluates Lewisham’s kitchen waste as 29.8% of the total and 21,060 tonnes in weight, this clarifies how much is kitchen and how much is garden waste of that 35% of the total of the waste of Lewisam that is compostable. It looks nevertheless quite likely that this figure doesn’t include commercial waste so the total figure could be higher.

Anyway, even with 20% deduced from the £3.1m that I had calculated as loss of earnings at the incinerator we would still remain with £2.5m, with still about £1.2m of savings in gate fees at the incinerator to be added to it, that’s £3.7m that could indeed pay for a decent collection and composting service.

Another thing to be considered is that compost has a value, once all those thousands of tons of waste are converted you’re left with something that can be sold. And as previously mentioned bin lorries traveling a third lighter represent a further saving.



That’s my kitchen, my Italian coffee machine, a coffee cup, a small scale and on top of the scale a bowl of kitchen waste. Peels, some leftovers of pasta, some stale popcorns, half a lemon that’s gone mouldy, the usual. That bowl holds a day of compostable kitchen waste and according to my calculations that’s about 15p of tax money quite literally burnt if it would be sent to the incinerator.


Other Countries have laws that force incinerators to charge different gate fees for different materials, this to discourage incineration of unsuitable materials like… kitchen waste.

In Britain we don’t have a law to that effect, SELCHP charges a flat fee, no matter what you bring to it.


Another beat that the current Council’s policy misses is the collection of oil, as Cllr Milton reminded us you can bring your used oil to the recycling centre in Landmann Way, and you should, because it is illegal to pour it down the drain, but don’t do it all together because in making an effort to avoid clogging the drains you’ll clog the transport arteries of the borough.

Seriously, who’s going to Landmann Way to bring their used oil?

If a separate collection of compostables was set up maybe adding used oil to the list of materials collected would provide a further source of income for those green jobs. There are money there, but I don’t know why used oils from households are not collected, and to be fair to Lewisham Council it’s not just here, this is true for pretty much anywhere, I searched but I couldn’t find any example of a local authority collecting used oil from households.

Maybe it’s not done just because there isn’t a regular door to door collection of compostables or recyclables, like what I’m envisaging could be done with the savings on the incineration of kitchen waste.

Anyway, one thing Lewisham Council did right was to provide us with the best ever analogy to explain how much energy can be extracted out of used oil:

Just one litre (that’s about a third of what’s found in the average chip pan) of used cooking oil can be converted into LF100 to produce enough clean electricity to make 240 cups of tea.


And finally, let me close this megapost with a straightforward personal position on incinerators, because I recognize that this proposal of mine can be seen as controversial by many. Incinerators are one of those things that many people oppose with vigour, and with arguments that I agree with.

They are ugly, they pollute and they must be phased out. They are yesterday’s news and we should all produce a lot less rubbish than we do and pretty much everything should be recycled in a way or the other, not burnt.

But the fact is that we do have an incinerator in Lewisham and it processes tens of thousands of tonnes of waste a year, the unrecyclable, non-reusable and uncompostable byproducts of the lives of those millions that live around it, it currently performs a useful function and we better make the most out of it until we find a better way to deal with waste.

But that will take many years, and as the incinerator in Lewisham holds the key to the waste management budget I don’t think that there’s a conflict between environmentally sound policies and a proposal about the incinerator that is not just “let’s shut it down” but that instead looks at ways to shift some of that budget into local green jobs.


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