Waste crews may not empty your recycling bins if you are putting in the wrong sort of waste, amid outrage at what people are chucking in.

People are flinging dirty nappies and dog poos into their recycling bins, leaving long-suffering workers to deal with the "contaminated" waste.

Now Durham County Council chiefs are launching a campaign to get people recycling properly.

People are putting too much material which should be recycled into ordinary waste bins - while throwing non-recyclable rubbish into recycling bins.

Councillors were shocked to see it for themselves in a visit to a waste transfer station as rates of contamination rose to about 38%.

Read more: Durham Council needs to save £52m in the next four years

Cllr Dan Nicholls asked how the council should deal with "people who are just refusing to recycle", including possible prosecution.

He said: "People are putting nappies in recycling bins. People are putting their dog poo in reycling bins, and this is just totally unacceptable.

"In the Biffa plant where we were last week, standing there for 90 seconds, four nappies are flying through.

"There's just no excuse for that," he told an environment scrutiny committee.

"Batteries is another thing. They should never be in a bin at all. There's plenty of places for people to recycle these things.

The Northern Echo: Cllr Dan Nicholls. Picture: Durham County Council.Cllr Dan Nicholls. Picture: Durham County Council.

"That contamination figure of 38% is just shocking.

"I genuinely think the council are doing a lot here, but I think a lot of it rests with the citizens of County Durham.

"Do not put these things in your bins. There are people having to work with the materials and deal with the consequences of what you are doing."

Contracts team manager Jo Blackie said enforcement was "highly contentious" and few councils fined people.

She said: "We try to work on education but we then empower the crews... through the crews lifting the lids on the bins and checking if there's any obvious contamination."

She said a contamination campaign had started with stickers on half a million bins: "We've got to be pushing loads of education messages out there trying to make sure the public is fully aware of what they can and can't put in the bin.

"We then go to rejecting more bins at kerbside.

Read more: Darlington council defends claims it 'can't keep streets and bins clean'

"If they spot a high level of contamination, like a black bag in the bin and it's obvious there's waste in there, you don't empty the bin. It's as simple as that. You put a sticker on the side and you say why.

"Then that resident is going to have to empty that bin, deal with it as residual waste or sort it and separate it. It forces them to have to do that.

"You'll find residents will start to complain to you. They need to sort their waste out.

"The biggest challenge for us is contamination. We've seen unprecedented levels of contamination.

The Northern Echo: Bin collections were discussed at a council meeting. Picture: Northern Echo.Bin collections were discussed at a council meeting. Picture: Northern Echo. (Image: Northern Echo, Newsquest)

"It's running on average at about 38%. That's over a third of what is going into those blue-lidded bins that shouldn't be in there.

"Things like electrical items - we want them to go to our electrical drop-off points, we've now got over 130 in the county or into the HWRCs.

"About a quarter of what goes into those blue-lidded bins is actually rubbish - black bag rubbish, dog poo, nappies. Unreal the sort of stuff that people just put into those bins.

"Before Covid our overall contamination level was around 29%, so we've done a 9% jump up. It's unbelievable."

Read more: Darlington Council leaders hear concerns over cost of care

The council is urging people to recycle more of the right rubbish as recycling rates had dropped from just over 40% pre-Covid to about 38%, and a 10% increase in landfill.

"We now need to find ways to turn that around," said Ms Blackie.

The "massive impact" of Covid created an "unprecedented level of increased waste" dealt with by the council from 252,000 tonnes to 272,000 tonnes in two years, with a 13% rise in home waste.

"What that actually means is an awful lot of material that we've got to find a home for.

"We've really got to reverse some of those trends."

She said Covid "had some strange effects", with more garden waste and "absolutely unprecedented levels of glass".

"We had so much glass coming through it was unreal. I have never seen that quantity of glass in 20 years of working in waste."

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