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Surrey Accused of Complacency Over Static Recycling Rates

Published on: 3 Apr, 2022
Updated on: 4 Apr, 2022

By Hugh Coakley

“Complacent” is how the performance of the Surrey Environment Partnership (SEP), which manages the mountain of waste from the county’s 11 districts and boroughs has been described by a Green Party spokesperson Sam Peters despite Surrey having the third-best recycling rate of all the two-tiered local authorities in England.

And SEP itself recognises that “there is still work to do”.

Recycling rates in Surrey have remained static over the last four years at around 55 per cent. This is less than in Wales and parts of Europe where recycling is at 65 per cent and more.

The mountain of waste piled up in the holding shed at the Slyfield tip in Guildford.

The Green Party says increasing incineration of Surrey’s waste is “concerning” with worse greenhouse gas outcomes than coal-fired power stations. Instead, they say, we should be stepping up on recycling rates which could create up to 7,100 jobs.

The report What Happened To Surrey’s Waste 2020-21 by SEP says Surrey has the third-best recycling rate of all the two-tiered local authorities in England at 55% and are “well above the England average of 42.3%”.

But the SEP annual performance report reveals the “long-term trend indicates that there has been little change in the overall recycling rate since 2018-19”.

The SEP performance report shows the recycling rate has flatlined since 2018.

SEP said it was “pleasing to see that the proportion of Surrey’s rubbish sent to an energy from waste facility increased” to 41 per cent, powering around 38,000 homes.

Other headline figures showed a 7.6 per cent increase of the total rubbish collected to 539,777 tonnes.

Excerpt from the Surrey Environment Partnership report What Happened to Surrey’s Waste in 2020-21.

And nearly 19 per cent of all of our waste, over 100,000 tonnes, went outside of the UK to  “exact location unknown”. This is a sharp increase on 2019/20 where the total exported was around 21,000 tonnes due to a lack of facilities and demand for recycled products in the UK say SEP.

The majority of this, 14.6 per cent, went to the EU. The most common destination for Surrey’s waste to be recycled abroad was said to be Germany.

See Waste Report Reveals A Third Of Surrey’s Waste Incinerated With CO2 Emissions Uncaptured and Over Half Of Surrey’s Food Waste Is Wasted And It’s Getting Worse

Sam Peters, Green Party candidate in Shere at the SCC elections in May 2021.

Sam Peters, Green Party candidate in Guildford at the last county council election, said: “SEP has demonstrated a complacent attitude with the promotion of a headline at the expense of a more thorough look at our figures. Other countries are already doing much better.

“In particular, the increase in incineration is concerning. The ratio of energy generated per unit of greenhouse gases released is typically two times worse for incineration than for coal-fired power stations.

“Given the win-win nature of increasing recycling rates, we should be striving for better, not resting on our laurels. Scotland and Wales already have zero-waste plans, as do many other countries and regions. Surrey is surely capable of rising to this challenge.”

Brian Creese, chair of the Guildford Labour Party.

Brian Creese, chair of the Guildford Labour Party, said: “Surrey is simply nothing like ambitious enough. It is not saying much to be third where performance is so poor across the board. We should set our sights on being among the best in Europe.

“It is imperative to reverse climate change and the waste economy. To really change the levels of recycling we need better information, education and facilities. The expectations of waste providers should be the same in every place.

“We should encourage home-recycling services such as composting and sharing unused belongings and at the simplest level.

“Let’s see specific collection points. Surrey needs to provide well-kept neighbourhood hubs for the disposal of recyclables which are frequently cleared and kept clean and tidy. The current provision in supermarket car parks is inadequate and all too often a health risk.

The recycling area in Sainsbury’s shop at Burpham was overflowing with uncollected items which the public hoped would be recycled. Photographed on March 17.

“SEP needs to have ambitious and challenging targets, and be mandated to increase the level of recycling month on month, year on year. This is the only way to drive up our unambitious levels of recycling.”

A SEP spokesperson said: “Surrey has got to this position [third highest recycler of England’s 30 two-tier authorities] in part due to its councils working together closely as part of the SEP.

“We recognise that there is still work to do, which is why SEP’s priorities for 2022-23 will focus on waste reduction, food waste recycling and the reduction of contaminated recycling bins.

“47.5 per cent of rubbish put in household rubbish bins by residents could have been recycled instead of being sent to energy from waste.

“To help educate residents in Surrey, SEP has developed various initiatives including the Surrey Recycles app. The current campaign, Watch Your Waste, includes a game that residents can play to test and improve their recycling knowledge.

“The government is currently consulting on improving the consistency of waste and recycling collections across the country, the results of which should help to standardise services and increase recycling rates. SEP has coordinated a response to the consultation.”

GBC lead for the environment James Steel (Lib Dem, Westborough) has not responded to The Dragon’s request for a comment.

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Responses to Surrey Accused of Complacency Over Static Recycling Rates

  1. Keith Francis Reply

    April 4, 2022 at 8:35 am

    Sainsbury’s is at Burpham not Merrow!

    Editor’s response. Thank you. Apologies. Now corrected.

  2. Sue Hackman Reply

    April 6, 2022 at 9:40 am

    I have been monitoring the content of my black bin to see what is left after I have recycling as much as possible. I have discovered that almost half of my landfill waste is soft plastic such as wrappers and food bags.

    Well done to the Co-op for being the first supermarket to offer recycling for soft plastics, and I note that Tesco, Sainsburys and ZCG have followed suit. It’s good that the supermarkets are doing this because most of the soft plastic comes from them in the form of food wrappers.

    But given that it’s half my waste, I am guessing we need much more. I urge Guildford Borough Council to add soft plastic to their recycling offer.

    Sue Hackman is a spokesperson for Guildford Labour

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