ONLY two of the North-East council's are failing to meet their targets for recycling their household waste. Congratulations. This is a good news story.

The two that aren't - Middlesbrough and Stockton - explain that much of their rubbish is burnt in an incinerator which turns it into electricity. This is certainly a better way of disposal than dumping the waste in a landfill site, but it would be much better if the recyclable material were taken out first.

Our figures on Page 5 make interesting - and useful - reading. Darlington and Hartlepool have comparable populations. In 2003-04 (the last year figures are available for), Darlington recycled far more paper and glass than Hartlepool whereas Hartlepool did far better in terms of textiles and cans. We must hope there has been a sharing of best practice so that all councils are raising their recycling levels.

There are still wild disparities between the councils in the level of services they offer. On one side of the Tees, Darlington collects its residents' newspaper, tin, glass and clear plastic; on the other side, Richmondshire just collects newspaper. Why the difference?

But, of course, it isn't just down to the councils. It is down to people to prove they're not too lazy to separate cardboard from tin. And all it takes is a little effort.

It is also down to our suppliers. Why do supermarkets and corner shops wrap too much in clingfilm; why do they sell milk and fruit juice in non-recyclable cartons when they could go in plastic?

Every child will this Christmas receive toys which are tied to acres of coated card by miles of indestructible plastic wire - can the toyshops, hand on heart, say any of it is really necessary?

Because for all the congratulations that our councils get for exceeding their recycling targets, the targets are themselves unimpressive. Most authorities in the North-East were last year required to recycle only 18 per cent of their household rubbish, which means that 82 per cent of it was dumped to leak methane into the air and toxins into the earth.

Surely, at the cost of only a little effort, we can all do more.