Thursley Nature Reserve In The Surrey Hills

Annual review

Surrey Environment Partnership
April 2020 – March 2021

Activity and achievements 2020-21

Managing Surrey’s waste: Responding 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 recycling and waste that is produced by households. This needed an exceptional response and SEP proved to be the ideal vehicle to ensure the county’s services continued to operate and manage huge increases in waste volumes.

  • From the start of the first lockdown on 23 March 2020 to the end of March 2021 an additional 49,707 tonnes of recycling and waste was collected, an increase of 12.2% over normal tonnages.
  • Core services were maintained throughout the year.

The following sections outline the work that enabled this to be achieved.

Contingency planning

Being an established, well-functioning partnership with an officer team already working on its behalf, SEP was in a good position to respond quickly to the emerging situation. Several staff in the JWS team were immediately diverted to the coronavirus response including contingency planning.

Contingency planning work included:

  • Regular contact between officers from all 12 authorities to share knowledge, support each other and discuss contingency planning. This was via virtual meetings and a dedicated email group.
  • Lobbying to ensure staff working on collection and disposal operations were included in key worker lists.
  • A review of the SEP work programme to identify activities that should not continue, either due to safety concerns, or because it was more appropriate to delay them. This enabled the identification of members of JWS staff that could be diverted to coronavirus contingency planning activities and ensure that resource was dedicated to delivering functions that were of most benefit.
  • Maintaining links with Surrey Resilience Forum and ensuring its members were updated on the pandemic’s impact on recycling and waste services.

From March 2020 to March 2021 an additional


tonnes of recycling and waste was collected

Delivering services

Bin men, Rubbish collectors or garbage men collecting household waste and recyclingKey to the pandemic response was ensuring that services continued to be delivered in Surrey and that crews could operate safely. Work in this area included:

  • Waste data was collated regularly to understand the impact that increased home working and lockdowns were having on the amount of recycling and waste being collected.
  • A service tracker spreadsheet showing the status of all services across the county was updated and circulated weekly.
  • Advice from industry organisations and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on how to apply social distancing measures when carrying out recycling and waste collections was carefully monitored and quickly shared with all SEP partners.
  • Feedback about contingency planning, service priorities, levels of service and sickness rates was provided to Defra and the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee (LARAC).
  • Staff from Surrey’s waste disposal contractor, Suez, were redeployed to help with collections and emptying local recycling banks while the Community Recycling Centres (CRCs) were  closed.
  • Discussion and planning before the reopening of the CRCs ensured sufficient traffic management was in place to minimise disruption to collection service vehicles.
  • Contingency planning and risk assessments were undertaken to review the potential impact of the test, track and trace system on collection crews and depots.
  • While some authorities experienced temporary disruption to the collection of a small number of materials such as garden waste and textiles, all core services in Surrey, food waste, dry mixed recycling (DMR) and residual waste, remained up and running throughout the height of the pandemic.
  • Surrey authorities fared very well when compared with the national picture, where during the first wave of the pandemic, up to 20% of recycling and waste services, and over 50% of garden waste collections in England experienced disruption.
  • The HSE inspected the measures in place at two CRCs. Both sites passed the inspections and feedback from HSE was positive.

All core services in Surrey (food waste, dry mixed recycling and residual waste) remained up and running throughout the height of the pandemic.


Coronavirus, self isolation banner

Communications was a critical requirement of the pandemic response and the JWS team undertook a significant programme of coronavirus-related communications work for the partnership. This included the rapid creation of two new campaigns:

  • The first campaign was developed when public health guidance was issued to advise residents on 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 recycling and waste collection services and crews.
  • Coronavirus, what to do with your waste bannerThis 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 engage with the increasing number of messages. This consolidated the messages into six ways that residents could help.
  • Activity included sharing campaign messages countywide through SEP’s website and social media channels, magazine advertising and targeted digital advertising on websites, YouTube, Spotify, Google search and Gmail. Media releases were issued, radio interviews arranged, and campaign toolkits were created and shared with all partners.

Communications was a critical requirement of the pandemic response and the JWS team undertook a significant programme of coronavirus-related communications work.

Coronavirus, bin collections banner

Additional communications and engagement activity included:

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

The coronavirus communications work was well received by residents and there was some very good engagement.

Evaluation highlights

  • Posts on SEP’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels were seen nearly 4.6 million times.
  • There were almost a quarter of a million shares, retweets, likes, comments and replies to posts.
  • Pages on the SEP website were viewed 783,997 times, a 278% increase from the same period in 2019-20.
  • There were over 96,000 new visitors to the SEP website.
  • Digital adverts were seen 16.2 million times.
  • Videos were viewed over 680,000 times.
  • There were 268,454 searches on the Surrey Recycles search tool and app.

There were over


new visitors to the SEP website

See also

Surrey’s target


70% of Surrey’s waste should be recycled.