MORE than 100 tonnes of waste wrongly placed in recycling bins collected in the Maldon district last year was rejected at the point of sorting.

The Local Government Association (LGA) is calling for labelling on packaging to be made clearer, to avoid recyclable waste getting mixed-up with non-recyclable items.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) data shows 128 tonnes of waste collected by Maldon District Council were rejected at the point of sorting in the year to March.

This is more than the 93 tonnes rejected the previous year and the largest volume since records began in 2014-15.

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.

The authority collected nearly 13,000 tonnes of waste for recycling and composting last year through its kerbside collections and recycling banks throughout the district.  

A spokesman for the district council said: "The vast majority of residents are careful and only present good clean recycling in their pink sacks, however there is always going to be a small amount of contamination in the sacks.  

"Last year this amounted to 128 tonnes or 2.7 per cent of the 4,742 tonnes mixed recyclate collected in pink sacks. 

"This figure is extremely low and well below acceptable levels for the sorting facility that accepts Maldon’s recyclate." 

The council has clarified while there is a cost for the disposal of this material, this is accounted for in the sorting fee charged and therefore there is no additional cost to the council or residents.

The spokesman added: "Although the amount of contamination is rising year on year, this is only as a result of the additional material being collected and not because contamination levels are rising. 

"All waste collection authorities have seen a significant rise in the amount of waste being presented by residents since March 2019 due to Covid restrictions and the increase in working from home. 

"However most residents are presenting this extra material correctly using the comprehensive recycling and separate food collection service provided by the council. 

"58 per cent of all waste presented was diverted from disposal last year which is well above the national household recycling rate for England of 42.3 per cent and 14th highest in England out of 216 authorities."

Maldon District Council officers support the LGA’s call for better labelling on packaging as "any measures introduced to make recycling easier for residents and reduce contamination levels further is welcomed".

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.”

Defra said a consultation had taken place on a proposal to force producers to label their packaging clearly, so 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.