Waste put in wrong bins cost council £240,000 in a year

Wrongly-sorted waste is costing local councils thousands of pounds each year. 

Wrongly-sorted waste is costing local councils thousands of pounds each year. - Credit: IAN BURT

Waste wrongly placed in recycling bins in North Norfolk cost the taxpayer more than £240,000 over one year, new figures reveal. 

Government data shows that across the North Norfolk District Council area, 2,606 tonnes of waste was incorrectly disposed as recycling in the 12 months to March 2021 - a 6pc increase on the previous year. 

Recycling charity Wrap estimates that waste wrongly disposed of as recycling costs councils around £93 per tonne to process, putting the cost for the 2020/21 period in North Norfolk at £242,358.

Nigel Lloyd, NNDC's portfolio holder for environmental services, climate change and environment.

Nigel Lloyd, NNDC's portfolio holder for environmental services, climate change and environment. - Credit: Nicholas Manthorpe

Nigel Lloyd, the council's portfolio holder for environmental services, climate change and environment, said North Norfolk's recycling figures were among the best in the county, but there was still room for improvement.

Mr Lloyd said: "We've seen recycling grow over the years but it seems we've reached a bit of a plateau. My personal view is there's still a lack of understanding in the community of what can and can't be recycled."  

He said people could help reduce the amount of waste wrongly placed in recycling bins by making sure it was clean or empty.

Mr Lloyd said: "If you've got a pizza box that's still got half a pizza in it, that will be rejected because the buyer of the [recycled] cardboard cannot deal with cheese and pizza.

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"Plastic food pots for everything from yogurt to beef mince can all be recycled, they just need a rinse. Tetra packs - drink cartons for milk and fruit juices - are also fully recyclable."

The amount of waste wrongly placed in the recycling has been trending upwards. In North Norfolk there was 1,467 tonnes of it in 2014-15, 1,543 tonnes in 2015-16; 1,612 tonnes in 2016-17; 1,871 tonnes in 2017-18; 2,564 tonnes in 2018-19 and 2,464 tonnes in 2019-20.

Mr Lloyd said making sure recyclables were clean and correctly sorted not only helped the environment, but also had a financial benefit. 

He said: "It's a small contribution everyone can make to reduce their carbon footprint, but if millions of people are making small changes it adds up to a big number. 

"It also helps us to keep down council tax rates, so there are tangible benefits to people - recycling makes good business."