On the 21 October 2020, Rother held its annual Parish Conference. Rother staff and elected Members, met with representatives from the Town and Parish Councils to discuss the issue, Climate Change – what can local councils do?

Due to the pandemic, the conference was held remotely this year and was attended virtually by 67 people.

The conference was recorded and is available to watch on YouTube.


Each of our external speakers has given permission for copies of their presentations to be placed on our website. These are available below:

Questions and answers

We received a very high number of questions this year. Those that could not be answered on the day are listed below.

What a great idea! We are always looking for innovative ideas to promote recycling to all age groups, including school age children.  Rother works with Hastings and Wealden as part of the Joint Waste Partnership, and alongside East Sussex County Council as a whole, to raise awareness of what can and can’t be recycled with social media campaigns and information leaflets. A new ESCC campaign is underway shortly to promote recycling using stickers on bins. I am not aware of specific school campaigns but will pass this on to the Waste Strategy Group to see what can be planned for next year when hopefully schools will be more accessible, COVID allowing.

You can also watch our What happens to your recycling video on YouTube at


Rother DC collects recycling using a co-mingled model (i.e. different types of recycled material are collected together). This model was selected based on a 2017 detailed review of 10 waste collection systems.

There is not a direct correlation between a choice of a waste collection system selected and how much recycling residents do.

How much recycling residents do is linked to an individual’s understanding, behaviour, and attitude towards the environment.  Education can influence the outcome here.

Viridor work closely with the East Sussex County Council contract team. The materials collected within the recycling are determined by procurement and Viridor confirm what can and cannot be accepted for processing. Viridor have Target or Acceptable materials that are key for high quality input to our site. There are then Non-target materials divided into Objectionable, i.e. materials that can be recycled by generally best suited to HWRC sites; and then Prohibitive materials, items that cause danger to Viridor employees, could damage the plant and/or can cause fires.

Black plastics, e.g. food trays, are recyclable. The issue in the UK is that there are no reprocessor for the materials and European reprocessor can be unreliable.

Key here is that food producers are learning from the negative PR that they need to replace these food trays with alternatives. This have been happening for 4-5 years and the amount is significantly lower today.

Where residents place these into their recycling Viridor will deal with these materials in secondary processing at our Rochester PRF. Their destination will depend on the reprocessing market conditions.

Plastic Bags and Film is commonly marked “Check your local Council for Recycling Information.” These are not Target materials for Viridor as they “mask” the fibre grades on the sorting belts. However, as with the black plastic, Viridor sort and separate these materials and prepare them for sale. There is limited reprocessing capability in the UK, therefore these materials will be exported to fully licensed facilities. Viridor checks the facilities regularly to ensure they are complaint. The UK Environment Agency also monitors such facilities.

Viridor are not actively engaged in this field, however there was a recent article on the subject in the CIWN on-line magazine


Without studying the area in depth, my guess is that a huge amount of energy is required, through the use of microwaves as noted. What I do recall from my education (many years ago!) and from previously working for General Motors, is that the production of hydrogen from any source is energy intensive. The net benefit from liberating the gas into a liquid to be easily transported for use as e.g. a fuel for a car, is negative, i.e. more energy is required to capture hydrogen than the energy is can provide as a fuel.

Further, you often find that what is feasible in the laboratory cannot be scaled up to a production scale to provide a commercially sustainable plant. This has been the experience of the Waste Industry and Local Authorities in respect to Gasification or waste as pre-treatment in certain Energy from Waste (EFW) facilities.

Plastics are an amazingly efficient packaging materials and provide many benefits to society, but only when correctly captured in the waste stream and then processed as a valuable resource for reuse as an alternative to virgin plastics in industry.

The influence of design on all materials has been moving to provide easy-to-recycle products over the last decade. WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) is no exception to this. Partly through legislative taxation on the producer, the manufacturers pay into a scheme for recovery and recyclability of the consumer goods. The level of money contributed will further be developed in the Extended Producer Responsibility area of the governments Waste Strategy that is due for publication in 2021 – delayed from 2020 owing to Covid-19.

Yes, Viridor uses electric Fort-lift trucks (FLT’s) to move materials around its operational facilities. Electric loading shovels are not yet available.

Viridor’s company car policy also has VW Golf-E and Tesla models available for staff that have a need to travel available to choose.

We have also begun the installation of the network of electric vehicle charging stations at our facilities, e.g. Crayford MRF where the East Sussex recyclables are sorted, and also our ERF’s where we are a generator of electricity enabling great sustainability within the business.

Unfortunately, the railway adjacent to Crayford MRF in the main commuter line from Kent into London and whilst there is a rail siding further towards London relatively close to the facility, there is no space to run a link.

We do run residual waste into a two Runcorn ERF’s where we process over one million tonnes of materials each year. The Dunbar ERF also has a rail siding shared with Tarmac but at this time materials do not arrive by the rail link that was in place when we built the facility.

At this time there are no commercially viable outlets for reprocessing plastic bags and film derived from recycling collections. There have been attempts but these have gone out of business. Incidentally, following the introduction of the plastic bag tax. Essentially “feed-stock” reduced and was not available on the scale to make the sites sustainable.

Consumer goods travel to the UK and Europe from Turkey and Viridor utilise the returning containers to the country to move the plastic bags and film for reprocessing. This is a similar business model as paper and cardboard being reprocessed in the Far East where a huge number of consumer goods are manufactured and the containers need to be moved back, so they are filled to reduce the overall carbon impact of global trade. The Far East need to fibre to reprocess to create further packaging that then comes back to the UK, is then recovered and likely sent back again.

Verge cutting is carried out by East Sussex Council as the highway’s authority and information is available at https://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/roadsandtransport/roads/maintenance/grassweedhedgetree/grass/

Guidance produced by Plantlife  https://www.plantlife.org.uk/uk/about-us/news/road-verge-management-guide  are endorsed by highways agencies, industry and wildlife organisations and is referenced by East Sussex Highways:  https://www.eastsussexhighways.com/our-services/vegetation/wildlife-verges?topic=where-can-i-find-out-more-information-on-wildlife-verges

With regard to change of designation, if you believe a verge to be of specific ecological interest, you can apply for them to be considered to become a Wildlife verge through our application process and by completing a form available to download from the above website.

There are instances where use of chemicals for weed spraying may be justified e.g. when eradicating invasive species such as Japanese knotweed. Guidelines for such use of chemicals may be reviewed; different treatment methods identified and implemented, with factors such as cost and environmental impact considered.

East Sussex County Council are responsible for the treatment of all weeds on roads and pavements. They spray once a year starting in the summer, and spraying can only be carried out in good weather which means that schedules can change at short notice. For this reason, it is not always possible to co-ordinate removing dead weeds according to a fixed timescale. However, it is the intention to remove dead weeds as quickly and effectively as possible.

Verge cutting – Good Verge Guide by Plantlife https://www.plantlife.org.uk/uk/our-work/publications/good-verge-guide-different-approach-managing-our-waysides-and-verges is referenced on East Sussex County Council’s website. I will ask how is this being adopted and implemented.

Yes, carbon capture and carbon storage as well as other benefits of hedges are recognised. There is a national steering group called Hedgelink, please see their website http://www.hedgelink.org.uk/

Hedge planting funding available for schools and communities by Woodland Trust https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/plant-trees/schools-and-communities/

Help our Kelp is a partnership project in Sussex and includes marine Conservation Society and Sussex Wildlife Trust, looking at carbon sequestration of marine vegetation. Please visit the website https://sussexwildlifetrust.org.uk/helpourkelp

Wildlife and Artificial Lighting free webinar next week I will be attending – organised by Natural Devon, the Local Nature Partnership as part of Dark Skies Week 2020 https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wildlife-and-artificial-lighting-tickets-121364597779 – unfortunately sold out. Will enquire with the Sussex researcher about organising a similar event for Rother.

There are resources available on the topic of environment and climate change: the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) – https://www.nalc.gov.uk/our-work/climate-change  and Local Government Association https://www.local.gov.uk/our-support/climate-change

Rother provides advice and assistance to Neighbourhood Plan groups https://www.rother.gov.uk/planning-and-building-control/planning-policy/neighbourhood-plans/

Perhaps other parishes be happy to share their documents?

It is noted that the draft Battle Neighbourhood Plan sets out the use of swift bricks in its design guidelines and, at the point at which it becomes part of the development plan, it will form part of the considerations when determining planning applications which are subject to the application of that policy. The forthcoming new Local Plan will also present the opportunity to review our local planning policies. The consideration of ecological design in new developments will form part of this review which could look a variety of measures which design for wildlife in a holistic sense, and which could include wildlife features designed into buildings. The Wildlife Trusts have produced some helpful guidance on how to design housing with wildlife in mind: https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/sites/default/files/2018-05/homes_for_people_and_wildlife_lr_-_spreads.pdf

We are currently investigating this and will update this page with more information when it becomes available.

The County Council’s climate change declaration is for ESCC to become a carbon neutral council ‘…as soon as possible and in any event by 2050’.  Since issuing the declaration ESCC has developed a climate emergency plan, which commits to a science-based reduction target of 13% per year: https://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/environment/priorities/whatawearedoing/.

The Local Government Association has stated that: ‘there is no science to picking an end year where emissions are zero. Setting a target year by which emissions will be zero can be symbolically important. However, what counts is the trajectory of the commitments to carbon reduction between now and the target zero emissions year. This defines the actual level of emissions reduction being promised over the budget period. This is what matters to climate change’. See page 10 of https://www.local.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/5.89%20carbon%20ambition_3.pdf

At just over halfway through the year then the County Council is assessing whether we do look as if we are going to hit our corporate climate emergency target for this year. There is a major caveat though, the main heating season still lies ahead and weather factors will have a direct influence on energy for heating. In addition, this year we have a need to increase ventilation in our school and corporate buildings in line with Covid 19 safe working practices.  For these reasons it is too early to guarantee that we will hit our target and as we have not been in this type of pandemic induced atypical operational situation then modelling our heating related demand this coming winter with any degree of accuracy is not possible.

Looking forwards we are working hard to identify a pipeline of carbon saving projects to reduce the energy use and emissions from our own buildings, transport and street lighting.

The pandemic-induced economic impact is widely recognised to have hit young people disproportionately and this is a UK wide problem.  However, it is also the case that the environmental field has long been a sector in which it’s difficult to get a first job.  This is partly because it is competitive, and because it mostly requires specialist roles. Consequently, a degree is a good starting point, but may require either further study to develop a particular specialism and/or a period of unpaid work or a placement in order to gain relevant experience.  Many universities have good support systems in place to assist students and graduates, so I would suggest that your daughter finds out what support is available from the university she attended and from Brighton and Sussex Universities.

The ESCC Energy Team has been promoting various programmes to young people in our schools including:

Let’s Go Zero – which brings together UK schools who want to be zero carbon, are reducing their own climate impact, and demanding greater UK government support to achieve this goal. The campaign will show national government that there is a substantial demand amongst teachers and pupils to become zero carbon, with the potential for schools to catalyse wider change in their communities. It is run by Ashden (a UK-based climate solutions charity) in partnership with Global Action Plan, and a coalition of sustainable schools organisations. Please visit the website https://letsgozero.org/


Youth Climate Summit – 9th to 13th November 2020.  An engaging, free and accessible week of climate action and discovery for schools, with events hosted online throughout the week. The Youth Mock COP is running at the same time, and the Youth Climate Summit will complement and feed into this. The Youth Climate Summit is coordinated by environmental charity Global Action Plan and aims to empower students and teachers to become more ambitious with their school commitments in tackling the climate emergency. It includes an Energy Sparks session on Friday 13th November, 21 East Sussex Schools have already signed to attend. Please visit the website https://www.transform-our-world.org/about-the-youth-climate-summit-2020

The impacts of climate change due to historic emissions, which are already happening and will continue to happen such as hotter drier summers are likely to increase the need for improved water efficiency measures by local authorities, businesses and residents in East Sussex and the South East of England as a whole.  This important issue is covered on Page 11 of the East Sussex Environment Strategy: https://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/environment/priorities/environmentstrategy/

There are some significant plans for water recycling in the current Water Resource Management Plan. By 2027 we expect there will be requirements for effluent recycling schemes in Sussex, Kent and the Isle of Wight. We are also considering a variety of potential water recycling options to fulfil the large supply demand deficit in Hampshire under the strategic regional options process and it is likely that water recycling will play some role there.

There is a strategic option for Peacehaven developed jointly with South East Water, which are the water provider for this area. This option will be further considered under the next round of regional and company plans which will be published by 2024.

For more details please see Annexes  9, 10 and 11 of  the Water Resources Management Plan: https://www.southernwater.co.uk/our-story/water-resources-planning/water-resources-management-plan-2020-70

This would be a decision for ESCC elected Members to make. I suggest getting in touch with your local Member. Their contact details can be found here: https://democracy.eastsussex.gov.uk/mgMemberIndex.aspx?bcr=1

Rother is putting together an application for Public Sector Low Carbon Skills Fund for its buildings/estate. Please see the website  https://www.salixfinance.co.uk/public_sector_low_carbon_skills_fund

This would require some research. For example, are there any biodiesel plants in our district/ county? Waste cooking oil being collected from premises such as pubs in parishes – where does it go what happens to it? Is it collected to be turned into biodiesel? I’ve asked one biodiesel supplier known to me – Crown Oil https://www.crownoil.co.uk/ – they do supply households with oil boilers, they do deliver within Rother, both individual and bulk drop off, their number is 0161 395 0030

The strategy is just that and will be delivered by detailed planning. I’m sure your suggestion and all the brilliant ideas in this chat will be taken into account. Nobody knows everything and we can, and should, all learn from others.

At a corporate level, ESCC’s Climate Emergency Plan covers Transport: https://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/environment/priorities/what-we-are-doing/climate-emergency-plan.

At a county scale, there has been, and continues to be, significant investment in active travel.  For example https://www.eastsussex.gov.uk/roadsandtransport/localtransportplan

In addition, ESCC are working to deliver Local Growth Fund walking and cycling infrastructure packages in growth corridor areas (eg. in Hastings and Bexhill) and aim to secure funding from the government’s £2bn walking and cycling funding. As part of the county’s Covid economic reset programme we are also working with bus and train operators to incentive the safe use of public transport.

The East Sussex Pension Fund has steadily reduced the already-small share of its resources
invested in fossil fuel companies. These investments represented just 4% of its assets in June
2020 and are on track to halve again by December 2020 to under 2%, or around £70 million.

Investment in fossil fuel companies is not an active choice on behalf of the East Sussex
Pension Fund, but comes as a result of its ‘passive’ holding in funds which spread investment
across a selection of companies, reducing both the volatility of the fund and the costs to its

The committee which oversees the fund on behalf of 78,000 people from 130 employers in
East Sussex recognises the climate emergency facing the world and supports the Paris
climate agreement goal to limit global temperature increases this century to less than 2
degrees above pre-industrial levels. The committee has agreed a Statement of Responsible Investment Principles which ensures Environmental, Social and Governance issues are taken
into account on all fund decision-making.

The East Sussex Pension Fund has a legal duty to protect the financial security of its
members’ pensions and avoid unnecessary risks. The fund has taken substantial measures
this year to better align itself with the challenges of climate change and energy transition.
These include moving two-thirds of the fund’s passive investments with exposure to fossil
fuels into greener businesses and operations.

In addition, the fund has committed to regularly carbon footprint its portfolio. To help with
this approach, the fund has joined leading climate investor groups: it has signed the United
Nations’ principles of responsible investment and is a member of the Institutional Investor
Group on Climate Change (llGCC)

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