Recycling or incineration? Surrey’s waste turning point

  • Would you put a bit of effort into separating out your recycling if it meant less need for incineration?
  • Do doorstep collections work best or should residents be asked to take recycling to centres?
  • Do you agree that we might need to build a new waste facility on the Green Belt?

Choices we make now will have a real impact on what happens in Surrey for years to come.

Surrey County Council is consulting on its new waste plan. But the consultation is a nightmare in terms of not saying what it means and being totally impenetrable.

It asks questions like “Do you think this is consistent with national policy?” How many of us could answer that?!

And it’s asking residents to comment on a list of sites for new waste treatment – which could mean recycling or it could mean incinerators, without setting out clearly its plans for its own waste management.

Time for a new approach

Now is the perfect time for Surrey to take a new approach. They could say no to incineration – and instead focus on helping residents and businesses to reduce the amount of waste they throw away – and improve recycling facilities instead.

The economics of ‘energy-from-waste plants’ (aka incinerators) don’t stack up. It’s now widely accepted that better recycling, accompanied by schemes to promote waste reduction and reuse, makes the most sense not just environmentally, but economically too.

Up until now, the waste industry’s preferred approach to collecting recyclables has been to ‘throw everything in together’. That’s what happens in most of Surrey: we’re all used to throwing our plastic, glass, cans, and sometimes paper, in the same bin.

Surrey paying more than necessary

But this kind of mixed waste is lower value – meaning Surrey is paying more for collection and processing of our recyclables than it would if it got residents to separate the materials ourselves.

And the market is shifting. China used to take a lot of this low-value mixed waste but is now cutting down. This, combined with a fatal lack of imagination, could lead Councils like Surrey to think it’s easier just to burn waste.

The consultation is also very defeatist. It says, “… it is not considered possible to meet the anticipated waste management needs of the county without developing waste management facilities on Green Belt land…” This is clearly not consistent with national policy! And shows a pathetic lack of ambition.

Surrey Greens say we should:

  • Separate waste at source – particularly paper and glass. This increases its value.
  • Ban single-use plastics – particularly plastic bottles.
  • Create more jobs in waste reprocessing and recycling so that we have more experts who can get the best value out of our waste.
  • Make it easier for people to reuse and recycle all kinds of items – increase opening hours at recycling centres and install more street-corner recycling facilities like local bottle banks
  • Say no to new waste sites in the Green Belt.

The consultation

Read the consultation and send Surrey County Council your views:

  • The consultation closes on 7 February 2018 – so you have plenty of time to discuss the issues with your friends and neighbours. We’ll post another briefing here soon to help with that.
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