Dawn In The Surrey Hills


The table below shows the contents of an average household rubbish bin in Surrey.

Type of wasteProportion of average household rubbish bin
Non-recyclable waste, i.e., rubbish52.5%
Waste that could have been recycled,
made up of:
Dry mixed recycling15.1%
Food waste27.3%
Garden waste1.2%
Small electricals0.7%

How much rubbish was produced?

Surrey residents produced 242,368 tonnes of rubbish that was sent to an energy from waste facility or landfill site in 2020-21, which includes rubbish collected from CRCs. However, only 159,120 tonnes was non-recyclable waste. The areas of Surrey that produced the least amount of rubbish per household were Surrey Heath and Tandridge with the most being Elmbridge and Spelthorne. The table below shows rubbish collected from households via standard weekly collections, through bulky waste collection services and from street cleaning.

AreaRubbish produced per household (kg)
Epsom & Ewell447
Mole Valley427
Reigate & Banstead413
Surrey Heath365

What happens to Surrey’s rubbish?

When residents put waste into rubbish bins in Surrey, it is collected by a local crew and taken to one of five waste transfer stations in the county. There, it is bulked up and taken to an energy from waste facility in the UK or EU where it is burned. The heat produces steam, which drives a turbine and creates electricity.

The ash that is left over is then passed on to be used in construction projects. Some waste is also sent to landfill, which only happens to bulky waste that cannot fit into an energy from waste facility or when there is no capacity at energy from waste facilities, leaving no other option for disposal.

Of the 242,368 tonnes of rubbish produced in Surrey, 90.8% of it was taken to an energy from waste facility and turned into electricity with only a small amount sent to landfill. 69.2% of rubbish stayed in the UK to be treated.

The electricity generated by Surrey’s rubbish in 2020-21 produced enough energy to power 38,000 UK homes for a year.

It wasn’t all rubbish!

Sending waste that can’t be recycled to an energy from waste facility is the most environmentally friendly option for it. However, Surrey residents are still putting a lot of waste into rubbish bins that can be recycled, which ends up at these facilities. If it was recycled, it would be much better for the environment as burning it emits more CO2 than recycling it and it would make savings for Surrey’s councils.

The table above shows that nearly half of what residents put in rubbish bins could have been recycled.

Most of that was food with a large proportion also made up of household recycling, in particular plastic pots, tubs and trays such as meat trays and yoghurt pots, glass drinks bottles, card from online delivery packaging and clothing and rags.

How can residents reduce the amount of rubbish they produce?

All rubbish that is produced is harmful to the environment and costs councils money to dispose of. Here are some ways residents can reduce the amount of rubbish they produce:

  • Flatten cardboard boxes to make more space in recycling bins. If there isn’t enough space for them, leave them next to the bin in a dry, folded and tied bundle or in a clear bag.
  • If more bin space is needed for recycling, residents should contact their local council.
  • Buy reusable items such as cloth bags, beeswax wraps, reusable drinks bottles and washable face masks.
  • Don’t buy items with lots of packaging. Residents could even start shopping at refill shops that allow customers to take their own containers.
  • Reuse items whenever possible. For example, plastic bags can be reused to line food caddies.
  • Check if an item can be fixed before throwing it away. Surrey has several repair cafes that can help.
  • Do a DIY waste audit using SEP’s Binterrogator tool, which allows residents to see what they’re throwing away and to work out where reductions can be made.
  • Residents should make sure they know what can and can’t be recycled and put the right things in the right bins. See page 18 for more details.
  • Check if other organisations can recycle some types of waste. Supermarkets and local stores provide recycling services for things like plastic film and other packaging that most councils can’t recycle. Terracycle has recycling points for lots of different types of waste across Surrey.

See also

Surrey’s target


70% of Surrey’s waste should be recycled.