Borough Insight

What happens to Surrey’s waste?

If you’ve ever wondered what happens to your recycling and rubbish once it’s collected, now you can find out.

The Surrey Environment Partnership’s (SEP) new report reveals what happened to Surrey’s waste in 2020-21 and contains detailed information on the waste that was collected, what happened to it and where it went to be treated or recycled.

In 2020-21, Surrey had the third best recycling rate of all 30 two-tier local authority areas in England. 55.1% of its waste was recycled with the rest treated as rubbish. Of the rubbish that was collected, only 3.8% of it was sent to landfill, less than half the England average of 8.0%.

What happened to Surrey’s waste after it was collected?

Surrey’s waste was turned into a variety of new materials:

  • Glass was crushed, melted and turned into new bottles and jars or aggregate.
  • Paper and card was turned to a pulp and then made into new paper.
  • Plastic was melted into pellets and made into new products.
  • Metal tins and cans were shredded or combined with other materials and turned into new metal products.
  • Food and garden waste was broken down and turned into compost.
  • Textile waste was passed on to be reworn or turned into new products such as insulation.
  • Small electrical waste was shredded and separated into different materials and used in various new products.

Rubbish was mostly used to generate electricity

76.9% of Surrey’s waste was treated or recycled in the UK. It only went abroad when there was no capacity at facilities at home or when there was no market demand for the product made from the waste.

Was Surrey’s dry mixed recycling actually recycled?

Almost all the dry mixed recycling (paper and card, glass, plastics and metal put into household recycling bins) that was collected was recycled. However, 13.5% of material that was put into recycling bins was non-recyclable material.

When this happens, it can cause big problems because it is difficult to separate the good recycling from incorrect items such as black sacks and nappies, which might mean that an entire truckload of recycling is treated as rubbish and not recycled. If this waste had gone into the right bins, it would have made a big difference for the environment.

This is a increasing issue in Epsom and Ewell. Our teams are now instructed not to collect recycling from bins that has been contaminated in this way.

You can make sure you are putting the right things in the right bins by checking on the Surrey Recycles search tool and app. This allows you to enter your postcode and the item you are throwing away to find out which bin it goes in.

Most of our rubbish was turned into energy…but it wasn’t all rubbish!

90.8% of Surrey’s rubbish was turned into electricity; enough to power 38,000 UK homes for a year. However, a large amount of food waste was found in rubbish bins. If this waste had been put into caddies instead it would have been better for the environment and saved Surrey councils a whopping £4 million.

If you need a replacement food caddy or any bin, please visit our website and request through My Council Services.

You can read the full report on the Surrey Environment Partnership website here


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