Dawn In The Surrey Hills

Surrey recycles!

Recycling is good for the planet and can help fight climate change as the more material that is turned into something new, the fewer resources are used to create and distribute new products.

And in Surrey, we’re good at it! We are the 3rd highest performer of the 29 similar waste disposal authorities in England when it comes to the proportion of our waste that is recycled, composted or reused. And all our material is passed on to reputable organisations to be turned into new products.

Recycling is an easy way for residents to do their bit for the environment, but we know that lots of material that could be recycled is still going into rubbish bins. So, we’ve got plenty of tips and tricks for residents to help them recycle even more and push Surrey up the league table, helping the planet on the way.

What happens when residents recycle?

Recycling is collected and taken to different locations to be recycled in a number of ways. Each material creates different new products, e.g., plastic might be turned into clothing, glass makes new glass and food waste is turned into electricity and fertiliser. Residents can find out more about what happens to recycling by visiting the SEP website.

We know that some residents may wonder whether what they put into their recycling bins is actually recycled. In Surrey, we can assure residents that all recycling is passed onto organisations that are permitted and regulated by the Environment Agency and provide details of the material’s end destination to demonstrate the amount of it that was recycled. Representatives from Surrey County Council also carry out regular visits to the facilities to view the recycling processes.

In addition, to help reduce the resources used when transporting material to be recycled or composted, we aim to keep as much of it as possible in the UK. In 2021-22, 81.7% of recycling was recycled or composted in the UK.

Sometimes, however, it’s not possible for material to be recycled in the UK. This can be because there isn’t the demand in this country for the new product that is produced by the recycling process, or there aren’t enough facilities in the UK to recycle the amount produced. When material goes abroad, it is sent to reputable organisations with world-leading facilities to be recycled. The top three non-UK destinations for Surrey’s recycling were India, Turkey and Germany.

Is everything in residents’ recycling bins recycled?

Unfortunately, not all of the material that is put in recycling bins by residents is suitable to be recycled; a small amount isn’t. We call this contamination.

When too much material that can’t be recycled is found in the back of a recycling collection vehicle, the whole load has to be rejected for recycling. A total of 241 tonnes of material was not recycled for this reason in 2021-22. This was a great result for Surrey because the amount of material rejected for recycling for this reason fell by 71.2% compared to the previous year.

Some material that can’t be recycled also makes it further along through the recycling process. When this happens, it costs councils extra because it takes more resource to process the material. The amount of this type of contamination fell this year by 1.1 percentage points compared to the previous year.

This shows that Surrey residents are putting in extra effort to make sure they keep items that can’t be recycled out of their recycling bins. It also shows how important it is to know before you throw, otherwise you could be harming Surrey’s recycling rate and costing your council money.

How does Surrey compare nationally?

To measure Surrey’s performance we look at the proportion of the total waste produced that was recycled, reused or composted.In comparison with the other similar waste disposal authorities in England, Surrey recycled, composted or reused the 3rd highest proportion of its waste at 54.4% (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: The percentage of household waste sent for reuse, recycling or composting – waste disposal authorities in England compared

How are recycling rates changing?

Surrey’s recycling rate when SEP was formed in 2009 was 45.7%. Since then, we’ve seen a huge rise followed by a more recent plateau effect whereby the recycling rate has stagnated somewhat (see Figure 2), which has also been seen nationally. The rate in Surrey dropped by 0.7 percentage points in 2021-22 compared to the previous year but Surrey still performs highly against the England average of 44.1%.

Figure 2: The percentage of household waste sent for reuse, recycling or composting in Surrey – over the last five years

What can residents do to help Surrey climb the league table and help the environment?

  • SEP’s tips to help Surrey residents recycle as much as possible:
  • Use the Surrey Recycles search tool or app to find out which things go in which bins. It can also help you find ways to reduce, reuse and repair your waste.
  • Look out for the printed guides to your bins that are sent to all households in Surrey annually between October and December. Keep yours somewhere safe so that everyone in your house can use it.
  • Test your knowledge by playing our online Recycle Right game.
  • Check what you can recycle separately. Food and garden waste, small electricals, batteries and textiles are collected separately in most areas of Surrey – they don’t go in your recycling bin.
  • Empty, rinse and dry food and drink packaging as moisture and grease can ruin cardboard and paper.
  • Place all items loose in your recycling bin – nothing in bags, sacks or bin liners please.
  • Keep nappies, black bags and food out of your recycling bin.