Dawn In The Surrey Hills

Creating a greener, cleaner Surrey

Surrey Environment Partnership Review April 2019 – March 2020

What is the Surrey Environment Partnership?

The Surrey Environment Partnership (SEP) consists of the county’s 11 district and borough councils and the county council. It was originally formed in 2009 as the Surrey Waste Partnership aiming to overcome the challenges of two-tier service delivery and manage Surrey’s waste in the most efficient, effective, economical and sustainable way possible.

In April 2019, the partnership name was changed to reflect a growing remit and desire to tackle wider environmental issues in Surrey.

What are we trying to achieve?

Swan On The River Wey In Tilford, Surrey

The partnership is currently working towards the aims of three strategies which have been developed over the past 10 years:

Increase recycling and reduce the amount of waste produced, the amount of waste sent to landfill and the cost of waste management.

Reduce the amount of fly-tipping in Surrey.

Reduce the use of single-use plastics (SUP) through our roles as employers, service providers and as advocates across the county.

To deliver SEP’s joint strategies and achieve its challenging aims, action is required both at the individual partner level and collectively via countywide, centrally funded initiatives.

This report reviews the programme of countywide initiatives that were coordinated and funded by SEP from 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020. This activity was developed in consultation with officers and members from all partner authorities.

The report also includes details of work on climate change which was added to the programme during the year. Additionally the report outlines SEP’s initial response to the coronavirus pandemic. Whilst this was not part of the original work programme for 2019-20 and is still ongoing, the pandemic started during the year under review and the response is an excellent illustration of the value of working in partnership.

Our response to coronavirus

The impact of coronavirus on the UK and the rest of the world has been unprecedented.
Every aspect of daily life has been affected including the waste and recycling that is produced and how it is collected and disposed of. This needed an unprecedented response and the Surrey Environment Partnership proved to be the ideal vehicle to ensure the county’s services continued to operate and manage huge increases in waste volumes.

  • Compared to a 2020 pre-lockdown baseline, an additional 12,686 tonnes of waste and recycling was collected from 23 March to the end of May, 17% more than we would have expected to collect during that period.
  • Core services have been maintained throughout this period.

The following sections outline the work that has enabled this to be achieved, much of which will continue for the duration of the pandemic.

Contingency planning

Being an established, well-functioning partnership with an officer team already working on its behalf, meant that SEP was in a good position to respond quickly to the emerging situation. A number of staff in the Joint Waste Solutions (JWS) team were immediately diverted to coronavirus response work including contingency planning.

A dedicated coronavirus email group was established so officers across the 12 partnership authorities could communicate, share intelligence and support each other on a daily basis. This was followed by JWS facilitating weekly online meetings where contingency planning could be discussed in more detail.

Specific actions and outcomes included:

  • A service tracker spreadsheet showing the status of all services across the county that is updated and circulated weekly.
  • Lobbying to ensure waste staff working on collection and disposal operations were included on key workers lists.
  • Monitoring and disseminating advice from the Waste Industry Safety and Health Forum and the Health and Safety Executive on how to apply social distancing measures when carrying out waste collections.
  • Feedback to Defra and the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee with regard to contingency planning, service priorities, levels of service and sickness rates.
  • Redeployment of staff from Surrey’s waste disposal contractor Suez, to help support Epsom and Ewell’s garden waste collections, and to help clear waste from Reigate and Banstead’s bring sites whilst the Community Recycling Centres (CRCs) were closed.
  • Discussion and planning before the reopening of the CRCs to ensure sufficient traffic management would be in place to minimise disruption to collection service vehicles.
  • Risk assessments and contingency planning for the potential impact of the test, track and trace system on collection crews and depots.


Six ways you can help web bannerIt was clear that waste volumes were going to increase so a campaign was developed to highlight how residents could help.

Communications was a critical requirement and the JWS team has undertaken another significant programme of coronavirus related communications work for the partnership including creating two new campaigns.

Coronavirus Self-isolation web bannerThe first campaign was developed in mid-March when public health guidance was issued to advise residents how to deal with their waste if self-isolating.

When the work from home guidance was issued and it was clear waste volumes were going to increase, a second campaign was developed to highlight how residents could help to take pressure off waste and recycling collection services. This was further developed and messages expanded as schools and CRCs closed and the full lockdown came into place.

The campaign was later refreshed and updated to help residents to engage with the increasing number of messages. This consolidated the messages into six ways that residents can help.

Coronavirus Bin collections bannerActivity included:

  • Campaign messages shared countywide through SEP’s website and social media channels, magazine advertising and targeted digital advertising on websites, Youtube, Spotify, Google search results and Gmail.
  • Media releases issued and radio interviews arranged with BBC Surrey and Brooklands Radio.
  • Toolkits for the campaigns created and shared with all partners. These included copy for use on websites and in newsletters, social media posts, artwork, images and films. The toolkits continue to be updated regularly with new content and the latest tonnage figures.

iPhone with web banner image onAdditional communications and engagement work included:

  • The Surrey Recycles search tool and app updated to reflect any service changes including the closure and partial reopening of the CRC network.
  • Two special coronavirus issues of the Environment Matters newsletter produced and distributed to all members in SEP’s partner authorities. The aim was to ensure members were aware of how SEP was responding to the pandemic and ask them to help share the messages with residents.
  • A half-price sale of compost bins during the late May bank holiday to encourage more residents to start composting their garden waste at home.
  • The JWS team representing the partnership on the Multi-agency Information Group (MIG) which coordinates countywide communications during a major incident.

Results to date

SEP latest tweets image on an iPhone

From mid-March to end of May:

  • Posts on SEP’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels were seen 865,000 times.
  • There were 27,500 shares, retweets, likes, comments and replies to posts.
  • Our films were viewed 413,000 times on YouTube and social media.
  • Pages on the SEP website were viewed 166,420 times, a 180% increase from the same period in 2019.
  • There were 78,095 new visitors to the SEP website.
  • Digital adverts were see 3.6m times.
  • There were 50,589 searches on the Surrey Recycles search tool and app.


It quickly became apparent that we needed to know the impact that the lockdown was having on waste and recycling volumes. With many people working at home or furloughed and businesses and schools closed, waste was now being diverted to household collections.

To address this, the JWS team started the production of weekly performance reports to show how waste and recycling tonnage was changing.

The reports show a rolling two-week period comparing the increase in tonnages to an average two-week period before lockdown.

The table below shows the total amount of additional material that was collected from 23 March to the end of May, compared to a pre-lockdown baseline.

Type of wasteIncrease (tonnes)
Increase (percentage)
Dry mixed recycling
Garden waste
Food waste
Residual waste
Total waste and recycling12,68617%

Garden waste: up by 26%

This unprecedented pandemic and move to lockdown living has led to some rapid changes in how waste and recycling is produced in homes.

The closure of workplaces and schools has shifted commercial waste into the household waste system and people have adjusted to a lifestyle based at home.

Datashows that the amount of dry mixed recycling collected went up by almost a fifth, likely driven by the increase in packaging from online shopping as well as food packaging and bottles from eating and drinking at home.

The data has been analysed weekly and will continue to guide us going forward as we start to see whether the behaviours and ways of life adopted during lockdown continue in the long term.

Activity and achievements

What’s next for the Surrey Environment Partnership?

As mentioned earlier in this review the Government’s new National Resources and Waste Strategy means that significant changes to how waste is managed are expected. It is essential that the partnership continues to engage and respond to the Government over the coming year, whilst also preparing for implementation of the changes and ensuring SEP is as robust as possible.

As part of this we are aiming to increase the transparency and accountability of the partnership’s work and budget by all partners signing up to a new Inter-Authority Agreement. This will enable the Members Group to be formalised as a committee which will meet in public and be open to resident scrutiny.

This unprecedented situation has already provided a clear illustration of the value of working in partnership.

Being an already established, well-functioning partnership will help with our response to the forthcoming changes as it has in our response to the coronavirus pandemic. This unprecedented situation has already provided a clear illustration of the value of working in partnership and it will continue to be an important area of focus and work for as long as the pandemic continues.

As a result, there will be changes to the 2020-21 SEP work programme that was originally agreed by the Members Group. A significant amount of officer time has already been diverted to the coronavirus response and it has not been possible for some work to progress because of social distancing measures or the low likelihood of resident engagement. Some of the initiatives within the work programme have therefore been put on hold, delayed or are being modified.

It is not yet known how long the impacts of the pandemic will be felt, but it is likely that some form of social distancing measures will be in place for some time. The SEP work programme will be kept under constant review and any activity that is on hold will be resumed as soon as it is appropriate to do so.

See also

Surrey’s target


70% of Surrey’s waste should be recycled.