Incentives needed to reduce waste and reuse and recycle more

“Should residents be offered incentives to recycle?” is the question the Surrey Mirror put to local councillors this week.  Ruth Ritter, Green Councillor for Earlswood & Whitebushes, responded as follows.

Ruth RitterRecycling is vitally important for conserving the environment and reducing waste. Incentives to recycle for both individual residents and for businesses could well help us to improve our recycling rates but there also need to be incentives for councils to make it easier for us to reduce, reuse AND recycle.

Recycling helps reduce the need for mining, quarrying and logging for new raw materials, which are all activities that harshly pollute the air and water of our planet. They also use energy and generate greenhouse gases, but recycling only saves about half to one third of the energy used to make new stuff.

In Surrey average recycling rates are about 54% of the waste we generate, which compares with a range of 14% to 64% across the country, but we are creating more overall waste, which goes mostly to incinerators in Europe to generate ‘Refuse derived fuel.’ Transporting the waste generates emissions, incinerators are dangerously polluting and the residual waste still goes to landfill and pollutes water courses.

In Reigate and Banstead, our council receives far more money from our recycling because the food, paper and then the cans, plastic and glass are collected separately. Surrey County Council should choose to invest in helping all councils and all households, including flats, to separate out and recycle more things rather than incinerating our waste, which costs us an average of £110 per tonne. We would then save money and could reverse the plans to close some community recycling centres.

But ultimately the challenge is really to incentivise reuse. Only by reducing how much we throw away and sharing and reusing far, far more can we transform our lifestyles from living as if we have three planets, to living within the environmental limits of one.

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