Steve Darling: Why we must speed up our recycling rates

We need to work together to drive forward positive change for Torbay and our planet

We need to work together to drive forward positive change for Torbay and our planet - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Steve Darling, leader of Torbay Council, writes for the Torbay Weekly

In early summer the Prime Minister promised us a world class testing system but, as we head towards a second wave of the pandemic this autumn, our testing system is, sadly, chaotic.

On Friday, I participated in a Lib Dem council leaders’ conference call and was told by one leader of an Uber driver who went for a test, failed to self-isolate, and continued to work for 10 days until his test came back positive.

This led to 40 people being infected in his local market town.

The Government not only needs to get a firmer grip on testing but also needs to urgently roll out financial support for those who need to self-isolate, like this driver, and do not have access to adequate financial help.

With the current issues around the national testing capacity, there is a limited service available at the moment so those key workers who need urgent testing must be prioritised.

Although for Covid-19, we must all play our part to ensure that people in Torbay who need a test the responsibility doesn’t lie with the local authority, we are doing all we can with our partners in the health service to put additional local arrangements in place to boost our local testing availability until national testing capacity can be increased.

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In order to help track and trace and stop the spread of coronavirus a new NHS Covid-19 app has been launched.

It’s part of a large-scale coronavirus (Covid-19) testing and contact tracing programme and allows people to report symptoms, order a coronavirus test and check in to venues by scanning a QR code.

This helps the NHS to trace individuals that may have coronavirus.

From today (Thursday, September 24), it will be a legal requirement for local businesses to display the QR code poster linked to the app, so if you are a business, place of worship or community organisation with premises open to the public, please generate and display a code if you haven’t already.

Find out more about the app and QR code at


It’s National Recycle Week. The theme this year is ‘thanking the nation’.

Both our residents and frontline staff who have continued to deliver waste and recycling services, despite the huge disruption to all of our lives during lockdown, deserve acknowledgement for their commitment.

Increasing our recycling rates will help us achieve one of the key priorities at Torbay Council – to become a carbon neutral council.

Torbay currently has a recycling rate of around 40 per cent, this compares to Teignbridge with 56 per cent and 59 per cent in East Devon.

The aim is to increase our recycling rate to 50 per cent in the next two to three years; this increase will contribute to our goal of becoming a carbon neutral council and save hundreds of thousands of pounds of tax payers’ money that is being spent on waste disposal.

Now we wholly own our recycling services with the setting up of SWISCo, the successor to TOR2 as the provider of waste and recycling services, we have an opportunity to work jointly with our residents to boost our recycling rates.

That is one reason why we are launching a consultation on our waste management strategy.

It includes a range of proposed improvements to make the Bay greener and generate savings.

We must put our foot on the accelerator and speed up our recycling rates.

We need to work together to drive forward positive change for Torbay and our planet.

Torbay is currently coasting in the recycling slow lane and with climate change we must all play our part in shrinking our carbon footprint.

Finally, it’s great that children and young people returned to school at the start of this month and I’m pleased that Torbay is one of the top performing areas, with average attendance above 94 per cent in the first week – that’s more than 17,200 pupils.