Northampton's council tax payers foot £500,000 bill for getting recycling wrong

Authorities pay extra cost of non-recyclable rubbish getting mixed up with recyclable waste

By Federica Bedendo, Data Reporter
Sunday, 16th January 2022, 9:13 am
Updated Sunday, 16th January 2022, 9:14 am

Council tax payers in Northampton had to shell out nearly half-a-million pounds to deal with waste wrongly placed in recycling bins last year, figures suggest.

The Local Government Association is calling for labelling on packaging to be made clearer, to avoid recyclable waste getting mixed-up with non-recyclable items – an issue estimated to have cost English councils around £60 million last year.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs data published last month shows 5,302 tonnes of waste collected by the former Northampton Borough Council were rejected at the point of sorting in the year to March 2021 – more than the 3,959 tonnes rejected the previous year and the largest volume since records began in 2014-15.

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The former Northampton Borough Council collected 86,772 tonnes of waste in its final year

Recycling charity Wrap, which works with governments and companies on sustainability, estimates that waste disposed of as recycling, which is then found not to be recyclable, costs councils around £93 per tonne to dispose of.

It would mean rejected waste cost taxpayers in Northampton an estimated £493,086 in 2020-21 alone.

Overall, the authority collected 86,772 tonnes of waste, up from 81,555 the year before.

David Renard, environment spokesman for the LGA, which represents councils, pointed the finger at manufacturers who produce non-recyclable plastic packaging, which is then put in the recycling bin by people “in good faith”.

He said: “The burden then falls on councils to not only collect it and dispose of it, but to pay the extra cost of disposing of it.

“At a time when councils are working towards achieving net zero, they are doing so with one hand tied behind their back, courtesy of manufacturers who are littering our communities with plastic they know cannot be disposed of sustainably.”

Across England, 647,000 tonnes of recycling were rejected in the year to March, up from 525,000 tonnes the year before and the largest amount since records began in 2006-07.

Defra said a consultation had taken place on a proposal to force producers to label their packaging clearly, so that people would know if items are recyclable or not.

A spokeswoman said: “We want to make recycling easier and ensure there is a comprehensive, consistent service across England.

“Our landmark Environment Act will transform the way we deal with rubbish."

The act states food and garden waste should always be collected separately from dry recycling and residual waste.

“It means recyclable materials will have to be collected separately, while separate food waste collection will also help reduce contamination,” she added.