Dawn In The Surrey Hills

What happens to your waste, 2019-20


Surrey’s residents have a keen interest in what happens to their waste, so this new report aims to be both informative and transparent about that. The report covers the 2019-20 period, and a new version will now be produced each year, to keep residents informed and help demonstrate Surrey’s progress as we work towards reducing waste and recycling more.

How much waste was produced in Surrey?


In 2019-20, Surrey residents produced a total of 507,479 tonnes of waste which was collected from homes or taken to a recycling bank or Community Recycling Centre. 56.7% of this waste was recycled, 36.5% was turned into energy and 6.7% was sent to landfill.

According to figures released by Defra in March 2021, Surrey has the 3rd best recycling rate of the xx two-tier authorities in England.

There are variations across the district and borough areas in the county. The area with the highest recycling rate is Surrey Heath Borough Council, where residents recycle 62.1% of their total waste, but even the lowest performing authority in the county meets the average for England, which currently stands at 43.8%. The area where residents produce the least waste overall is Runnymede, where residents produce 311kg per person.

Details of the amount of waste produced in the county can be found here. These are broken down into local areas on pages by clicking on the links above.

Where did your waste go?

85.8% of waste that was recycled was recycled in the UK, with 7.5% recycled in Europe, 6.2% recycled outside of Europe and 0.5% recycled in an unknown destination.

Material that was recycled was turned into several different products:

  • Paper and card – new paper and card.
  • Garden waste – compost or soil conditioner.
  • Food waste – biofertiliser and biogas, used to generate electricity, heat and transport fuel.
  • Plastic – new products such as picnic benches, football shirts or children’s toys.
  • Glass – bottles or jars or ground up to be used as road surface.
  • Metal cans – new tins and cans.
  • Electrical equipment – new materials that can become part of shipbuilding, jewellery or musical instruments.
  • Clothes and textiles – sorted for reuse or used as stuffing or insulation.

65% of waste was processed in the UK with the remaining 35% processed abroad, either at an energy from waste facility or landfill site.

Could more waste have been recycled?

Yes! It’s estimated that that was put into rubbish bins by Surrey residents in 2019-20 could have been recycled.  That’s a total of 83,319 tonnes.

As more resources are needed to create items from new rather than from recycled material, this is bad for the environment. And as it is more expensive to process rubbish than to recycle material, it has also cost Surrey councils a significant amount, which could be better spent elsewhere.

For example, if the food waste that was put into rubbish bins had been recycled instead, it would have saved Surrey councils nearly £4 million during 2019-20 alone.

Based on the latest analysis of the material that makes up a waste bin in Surrey, the material that could have been recycled but was put into waste bins was mostly:

Material that can be recycledTonnes put in rubbish bins
Food waste
Paper and card
10, 029
Garden waste

The impact of items that are put into the wrong bin

Nearly 15,000 tonnes of waste that couldn’t be recycled was removed during the recycling process, which costs councils money. In addition, 719 tonnes of waste collected as recycling was rejected because they were in truckloads that contained too many items that couldn’t be recycled. When a truckload of recycling is emptied to be processed, it is inspected and if too many items that can’t be recycled are spotted, it is disposed of as waste.

See also

Surrey’s target


70% of Surrey’s waste should be recycled.