More than a million extra tons of recyclable material may be put in landfill sites annually due to the government's plans to bring back weekly bin collections, its own research suggests.
Environmental groups reacted angrily to the announcement by the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, that £250m was being found to encourage councils to scrap fortnightly rounds. Charities said the money would be better used to lessen the impact of spending cuts on services for the most vulnerable.
The move – ahead of the start of the Conservative conference tomorrow – follows a newspaper campaign for weekly collections.
About half of the English councils have switched to fortnightly schemes, both to save money and to encourage households to recycle more glass, paper, plastic, tins and food and garden waste.
Restoring weekly collections was a Tory pledge before the election. But Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, clashed with Cabinet colleagues when she tried to block the move this year. Research by her department could point to the reason. It concluded that ending the fortnightly collections could cut recycling of glasses, plastic and tin by up to 46kg per household and the amount of garden and kitchen waste by between 10 and 100kg.
That could lead to up to 1.5 million extra tons of recyclable materials being dumped annually and raise questions over whether Britain can meet European Union targets for reducing landfill waste.
Mr Pickles said: "I believe every household in England has a basic right to have their rubbish collected every week."
But Julian Kirby, the Friends of the Earth's waste campaigner, said: "A return to weekly bin collections is an astonishing waste of taxpayers' money and will have a disastrous impact on recycling."
Paul Jenkins, the chief executive officer of the charity Rethink Mental Illness, said: "For people who have recently lost services they relied on as a result of cost-cutting, the news that the Government has suddenly found a spare £250m for bin collections will be a bitter pill to swallow."
Simon Parker, director of the New Local Government Network, said the £250m would pay for residential or nursing care for 9,335 elderly people a year.
"At a time when councils are facing deep spending cuts, the Government's crusade for weekly bin collections is starting to look a little eccentric," Mr Parker said.