Lewisham's Recycling Record: Could Do Better

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

While working my way through the newspaper, I found a small reference to new figures on recycling. A quick search on Auntie Beeb’s website threw up something more useful, but not really what I was looking for. Finally, a hunt through DEFRA‘s website turned up a PDF with the complete figures for the country.

It doesn’t make happy reading for Lewisham Council. The first hint of a problem is when a search for “Lewisham” leaps you to page eight of nine. Uh-oh. The borough’s target for recycling and composting fo waste for 2003/2004 was 10%. It hit 8%. It’s a significant percentage short of a fairly low target. Disappointing for all concerned, I suspect.

However, the original article (in the Daily Torygraph) had the government busy issuing threats to “take over” the worst 34 under-performing councils. Lewisham is the 23rd worst, by my reading, and in some danger of having Government official coming over, checking dust on the mantlepiece and generally making themselves unwelcome guests.

That, to me, reads like a severe over-estimation of the power of government. Sure, councils have the ability to clean the streets better (and I have positive things to say about Lewisham Council in thar regard in a post to come), but they don’t have the power to reach into people’s brains and switch on the light that says “oooh, I should recycle”. Lewisham has a significant number of people who can’t even be bothered too keep their own property looking clean, or walk 10 yards to the nearest litter bin to drop their chewing gum. (Have you see the plaza in front of the new police station? It looks like a negative image of a dalmation.) Educating people on environmental issues will be a long, slow process, one I doubt “Government officials” parachuted into a local authority will be able to significantly change.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.