Revealed: the tonnes of rubbish put out for recycling that end up in landfill sites

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The Independent Online

Many councils are rejecting more than 10 per cent of waste put out for recycling by households and dumping it in the ground instead, a report has revealed.

The consumer's organisation Which? found that in 2007-08 councils in England rejected almost 229,400 tonnes of recycling waste because materials had been damaged or put in the wrong bin. Hertsmere Borough Council in Hertfordshire had the worst record, rejecting 22 per cent of doorstep material.

In the report, The Truth About Recycling, Which? claims that £12m a year could be saved if councils and residents recycled more efficiently. The Government's Waste Resources and Action Programme (Wrap) says that overall only about 5 per cent of all material that is left for recycling is sent to landfill.

Using freedom of information legislation, Which? found that some councils were wasting money by rejecting more than was necessary.

Manchester City Council rejected 16 per cent of household material, and Newcastle-under-Lyme and Watford Borough Council rejected 12 per cent.

Hertsmere Borough Council blamed its high rate on a temporary problem with composting materials. Recycling rates have trebled in the past decade, from 11 per cent of all household waste being recycled in 2001 to 35 per cent in 2008, as Britons become used to dividing out recycling waste into separate bins or crates.

Councils receive £50 per tonne for paper waste and £425 per tonne for aluminium waste from recycling companies. To dump rubbish in a landfill, on the other hand, costs them £53 for each tonne dumped.

Experts told Which? there was no truth to newspaper reports that councils were stockpiling or "secretly dumping" recycling material. However it said councils should give better information on what can be recycled.

Councils accused Which? of distorting the facts. "They appear to be counting dead cats and dirty nappies amongst the waste they think councils should be recycling," said Paul Bettison, who chairs the Local Government Association's environment board.

Wrap chief executive Dr Liz Goodwin said, "Almost 10 million tonnes of waste was put out for recycling in the UK last year. The 230,000 tonnes which is rejected is a fraction of the overall total."

That figure could be reduced "by making recycling collections simpler, and going the extra mile to explain how they work," she added.