'Recycling is important', say South East residents

Councillor Moira Gibson, chairman of the South East England Regional Assembly's Planning Committee, highlights the results of a major survey into attitudes to recycling.

South East England is the most populated region of the UK and along with its economy a big reason for this is the quality of its natural environment. From the White Cliffs of Dover, through the North and South Downs, across to the New Forest and up to the Chilterns, the South East offers a variety of vistas and natural resources.

A recent survey for the South East England Regional Assembly (SEERA) shows that the region's residents highly value our surroundings. In the survey by Ipsos Mori, residents say protecting the environment should be a top priority for the region. Nine out of 10 people think it is at least fairly important to take part in activities that protect the environment, such as recycling.

So far so good, but what does this mean in practice? The Assembly, which represents the views of South East councils and communities, decided to probe a bit further.

The survey found that about nine out of 10 residents (91%) recycle household rubbish or paper at least once a fortnight. Eight out of 10 residents say they try more than once a week to save energy by taking such action as turning off lights, using energy saving light bulbs or not leaving appliances on standby. About six in 10 (62%) try to conserve water more than once a week.

Although four in 10 residents say they do more compared to a year ago to save energy (44%) and recycle household rubbish (40%) and paper (39%), most feel they have reached their limit for green activities. Less than three in 10 (28%) say they will increase the amount they recycle or the water they conserve. This falls to one in 10 (11%) who are prepared to change their travel behaviour and use the train or bus instead of car or plane for long journeys.

However, residents continue to see transport as a problem affecting the South East's environment and their quality of life. About a quarter (24%) see a poor road network and congestion as the region's greatest weakness.

Statistics from the Assembly's recent Regional Monitoring Report 2007 show that despite a small decrease in the number of people choosing to travel to work or school by car, it is still the dominant mode of transport in the region. In 2005/06, 82% of all journeys in the South East were made by car, and road transport accounts for a third of the South East's CO2 emissions.

What is the Assembly doing?

The Regional Sustainability Framework, produced by the Assembly and a team of experts called the Sustainable Futures Group, will help people contribute to a better quality of life for today's and tomorrow's generations. It gives guidelines to help ensure the region's strong economy contributes to a good quality of life for all residents, cuts deprivation, helps protect the environment and reduces the use of natural resources.

To help reduce the South East's environmental impact, the Assembly, along with regional partners, has produced Reducing South East England's Ecological Footprint - a route map. This guide sets out how we need to change our behaviour to first stabilise our ecological footprint and in time reduce it.

The results are based on an Ipsos Mori opinion poll of 1,818 South East residents.

For more information on the Assembly's work visit www.southeast-ra.gov.uk

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