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85.6 per cent of Surrey’s recycling is now processed in the UK

A new report published by the Surrey Environment Partnership has revealed that 85.6 per cent of the county’s recycling is now recycled in the UK, with 65 per cent of its rubbish also being processed within the country.

According to the report, 501,797 tonnes of waste were produced in Surrey between 2019 and 2020, 56.3 per cent of which was recycled.

Baled plastic bottle wasteHowever, 83,613 tonnes of recyclable waste was prevented from being correctly processed because it was placed in rubbish bins, totalling an equivalent weight of over 6,500 double-decker buses.

Launching the What Happened to Surrey’s Waste 2019-20 report, Councillor Neil Dallen, Chairman of the Surrey Environment Partnership, said: “It is good to see that most of Surrey’s waste is processed in the UK.

“However, it’s a shame that so much material that could be recycled is still being put into rubbish bins.

“The Surrey Environment Partnership has produced lots of resources that can help residents recycle more effectively and we would urge them to get some of that material out of their rubbish bins and into recycling bins.

“It’s better for the environment and will save their councils money that could be spent on other essential services.”

The report specifically outlined the main material types that could have been recycled instead of being sent to an energy from waste or landfill site.

The largest figure was that of food waste, totalling an estimated 42,430 tonnes, followed by paper and card, which totalled an estimated 10,065 tonnes.

Although plastic waste was incorrectly recycled the least, the figure was still in the thousands, with an estimated 5,594 tonnes being sent to an energy-from-waste facility or landfill site.

Councillor Dallen added: “As more resources are needed to create items from new rather than from recycled material, it is bad for the environment when items that can be recycled are put in rubbish bins,

“It’s more expensive to send waste to an energy from waste or landfill site than it is to recycle it, so 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 £3.5 million during 2019-20 alone.”

The Surrey Environment Partnership, which is funded by the 11 district and borough councils and the county council in Surrey, has produced a range of resources to educate residents on waste and recycling behaviours.

The partnership has developed a ‘Surrey Recycles’ search tool and app, allowing residents to enter their postcode and the item they are throwing away to find out which bin it goes in.

It also produces annual printed waste guides to waste and recycling, which are sent to every household in the region.

The report also illuminated how much waste was produced by Surrey residents between 2019 and 2020.

Overall, 501,797 tonnes of waste were produced in the region during this period, with this figure including waste collected from homes, taken to a recycling bank or Community Recycling Centre, fly-tipping, and street cleaning.

Surrey Heath was named as the area with the highest recycling rate, where residents recycle 60.8 per cent of their total waste.

However, even the lowest performing authority in the county, Runnymede, exceeds the average for England, which currently stands at 43.8 per cent.

This report marks an improvement upon the UK’s waste export habits. In recent years, popular waste destinations have pushed back against exports, with the Chinese Government banning all imports of solid waste from the beginning of this year.

In May, however, a Greenpeace investigation found evidence of illegally dumped and burned UK waste across Southern Turkey.

Plastic packaging and bags from seven of the major 10 UK supermarkets were discovered at multiple sites, alongside packaging for COVID-19 antigen tests amid bags of UK plastic, indicating that the waste was less than a year old.

Turkey subsequently announced its intention to ban global plastic waste imports, with this regulation coming into effect earlier this month.

The UK was also named as the worst global offender for illegal e-waste exports late last year, in a report by the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC).

Earlier this year, the North London Waste Authority, which covers two million residents across the boroughs of Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington, and Waltham Forest, announced that none of its recycled plastic is exported for processing.

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