Surrey County Council’s Conservative administration have announced that we are scrapping plans for any Energy From Waste (EfW) plants, more commonly known as incinerators, in Surrey. We have also set an ambitious target of recycling 70% of our waste by 2013 and we also aim not to be using landfill by then.
Thanks to the efforts of our residents and our colleagues on Surrey’s Borough and District Councils we are producing less waste and recycling more and we believe that we are now in a position to look at alternative methods of dealing with our waste whilst also saving money. We have always believed that by working with our partners and making it easier for residents to recycle we could help make Surrey a greener place and significantly reduce our reliance on landfill.
Simply burying waste in holes in the ground is not only destructive to our landscape and environment but the taxation on landfill alone currently costs us over £7 million per year. This tax is increasing at an alarming rate and will have almost doubled by 2013. If we didn't act now Surrey’s taxpayers could be paying as much as £13m annually in landfill tax alone within four years, and we believe that by eliminating landfill we are making Surrey greener whilst also making better use of our increasingly limited financial resources.
We are also delighted to be moving away from incinerators. They are not what our residents want. The Leader of the Council has consistently made his opposition to them very clear (it was one of the first things he mentioned in his inaugural speech to Surrey County Council following his election as Leader of the Council in June) and I, as the Cabinet Member for the Environment cannot honestly say that they are the best option for Surrey either. By looking at new technologies we are able to propose a better solution.
But we have not simply said what we are not going to do. In addition to our new recycling targets we have also another key element in our new strategy: we are proposing to construct an Eco Park, which would be the first of its kind in the country, in Shepperton (Spelthorne) on the site of an existing waste treatment site. This would incorporate a range of waste treatment facilities, including a gasifier and an anaerobic digester, and would be significantly cheaper than the previous proposal of constructing two large incinerators.
There would be an innovation centre, which will look at and develop the latest technologies, and an education centre on the site so that we can help bring a greener message to Surrey’s children and also look at new ways of recycling and reducing waste. This would also create jobs as and in the current climate we believe that this is particularly welcome news.
Overall we feel that today we at Surrey County Council have shown a way forward that is good for the environment, good for the taxpayer and which will be popular with our residents.