Mother faces trial for falling down on her recycling efforts

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The Independent Online

Another milestone will be passed next week in Britain's slow transformation into a country that recycles its rubbish - the first prosecution of a householder for failing to recycle properly.

Donna Challice, from Exeter, is due in court in Devon on Monday accused of "contaminating" waste collections by putting non-recyclable items in her green bin - which is only designed to hold paper, cans, plastic and paper.

Ms Challice, 38, who has three children, may have to pay £1,000 in fines and court costs if she is found guilty in a test case brought by Exeter City Council.

A spokesman for the council said legal action was taken "as a last resort" after Ms Challice was sent several warning letters. He said the prosecution would send out a "stark warning" about recycling rules. Mike Trim, the authority's head of cleansing services, said just one resident abusing their green bin could contaminate recyclable waste from 300 other households. "We believe this is the first case in the country," he said. "Prosecution is the last resort. But it is one we are prepared to take. Council officers work hard to ensure residents understand the scheme and which items can be placed in which containers. We try to educate and convince so that people will know how it all works and go along with it."

Ms Challice will appear at Cullompton magistrates' court on Monday charged with an offence under section 46 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Under the Act, local authorities have the power to specify how people separate their waste, which bin it should be put in and which day it should be collected. In 2005, Exeter City Council sent 1,500 first warning letters to residents, 300 second letters and around 15 or 20 people - including Ms Challice - were sent a final warning.

But Ms Challice, who is unemployed, accused the council of being "petty" and said she was simply concentrating on bringing up her children, Warren, 14, Kimberly, 12, and Ryan, 10. "I've got far more important things to worry about," she said. "The council is being petty but if they want to spend their time and money taking this to court they can. It's a day out for me but I can't afford to pay the fine.

"There is land near the back of my home that is always being used as a dumping zone for fridges and freezers. The council should spend their money clearing that up instead."

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said it was the first such action brought under the Act. The minister responsible for recycling at the department, Ben Bradshaw - who is MP for Exeter - said it was important for everyone to recycle seriously. "Failure to do so damages the environment and costs our fellow council taxpayers," he said. From 6 April people who disobey recycling rules can face on-the-spot fines of £100 under the Clean Neighbourhoods Act. Britain's recycling rates are now steadily rising, after languishing for a long time near the bottom of the European recycling league. Latest figures show households are recycling 23 per cent of their waste. Nine years ago that figure was just 7.5 per cent.

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