Nappies and crisp packets in recycling sacks land Milton Keynes Council with £3million bill


MK Council is facing a bill for millions of pounds due to high levels of contamination residents throw away in recycling sacks.

MK Citizen can exclusively reveal that the council now faces a charge, thought to be upwards of £3m, from recycling contractor Viridor.

Every sack of recycling left out by residents for collection is processed at the Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Wolverton.

Staff for contractor Viridor then sort the recycling into the raw materials for sale, such as metal, paper and plastic. Contaminated sacks add to the cost of processing as well as reducing the value recycling materials can fetch, sometimes writing off whole consignments.

The council is allowed around a 10 per cent contamination rate, however MK Citizen can reveal that it is claimed as many as one in three recycling bags collected contains rubbish that should not be there, including an astonishing 20 tonnes of nappies a week.

The issue has been a concern for the council for some time and MK Citizen has previously reported that contamination of recycling was a possible financial headache for the local authority, and has published advice about what items should go in recycling bags. MK Council has been running a high-profile information campaign to reduce contamination levels. The council budget for next year also contains an extra £700,000 on-going funding to cover future charges, however the possible £3m bill is thought be related to a back dated claim by Viridor.

Cllr Pete Marland, Leader of MK Council said: “The claim by Viridor for high levels of contamination is not unexpected. We do not believe that the levels are as high as our contractor states, and we will look to negotiate robustly with them and require a high level of evidence before any possible settlement.:

He added: "We have been highlighting this issue for a while, and we have already had to find £700,000 on an on-going basis in the budget to cover contamination issues. We have been working on highlighting to residents what can and cannot be put into recycling bags and reduce contamination rates. I think people just assume that a nappy here or a crisp packet there will do no harm, but the cost is to every tax payer in MK. Obviously a £3m bill is a huge worry, we will negotiate but possible unforeseen costs such as this is exactly why we keep reserves. I am also keen we ask our scrutiny system to look at this issue quickly.”

“I think the vast majority of residents in MK want to do the right thing, look after the planet and recycle and I’m sure that with the right information and highlighting this issue, we will be able to reduce contamination levels going forward but the situation cannot carry on like it is.”