DARLINGTONS new household waste collection system has come under attack from an environmental group, who claim the process could do more harm than good.

From April 2009, refuse from households in the borough will be sorted at a plant near Newton Aycliffe.

As part of the new contract, glass, cardboard and paper will be collected separately and recycled, while tins and plastic will be sorted from the rest of the waste by the processor.

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What remains will be minced, compacted and placed into landfill.

It is hoped the new system will increase the amount of household waste recycled and composted in Darlington from 26 per cent to 50 per cent.

But Kendra Ullyart from the towns Friends of the Earth group said concerns remained over the eco-credentials of the process.

She added: "Its not really compost that this process produces, they are calling it that because it sounds green, it is actually toxic mince.

"But our main concern is that it stops people thinking about the need to look after the environment.

"Where is the incentive to cut back on the amount of packaging we buy when people know it goes through this process?

"It takes the emphasis of reuse, reduce recycle away from the individual and therefore negates responsibility for their actions.

She added: "People have a responsibility to recycle what they can.

"Some households do everything they can, and some do absolutely nothing.

"The councils new system makes it easy for people to do nothing."

But councillor Nick Wallis, Darlington Borough Council's cabinet member for sustainable environment and climate change, defended the process.

He said: "Our new waste collection contract, starting next April, will increase the percentage of waste recycled and composted to above 50 per cent which will make us one of the top performing councils in the North-East.

"I simply can't see where the Friends of the Earth are coming from.

"What I am particularly pleased about is that we have listened to residents' aspirations for recycling in Darlington and the new contract will allow us to collect cardboard, glass and paper as part of the kerbside recycling scheme."