Perth and Kinross Council has been hit with more than £100,000 worth of fines in a year for recycled waste that has been “contaminated”.
In a recent attempt to clamp down on contamination many residents’ recycling bins have been left unemptied due to non-recyclable contents.
But PKC’s SNP group has calculated that the council has been slapped with a further £1m in landfill tax over the past three years as a result of not meeting its recycling target.
The local authority – which in 2019 committed to leading by example in tackling climate change – recycled less than half of its waste in 2020/2021.
An update on council services was provided to PKC’s environment and infrastructure committee meeting on Wednesday.
Depute director of communities, Clare Mailer, told the committee the level of contamination in household recycling had increased above the 20% threshold.
Residents’ recycling bins have been left unemptied and slapped with red tags in recent weeks in a bid to reduce contamination.
But this prompted anger, with many residents bewildered as to why their blue bin had been rejected.
Ms Mailer told councillors they had taken residents’ complaints on board and would provide more information on why bins had been red-tagged.
PKC’s head of environment and consumer services, Mark Butterworth, said they were seeking to improve their engagement with residents.
He said: “There have been one or two incidents where we have tagged the bin and there hasn’t been any information as to why we have done that.
“We are improving and increasing the training of our staff to remind them to do that.
“We are also hoping to engage with residents and actually knock on the door and explain to them why it’s contaminated and where they have gone wrong.
“It’s not ideal by any means to leave a bin unemptied and basically leave a problem for a resident. But it’s a balance between collecting them and incurring hefty penalties – which we have done – or not collecting them and trying to educate them in terms of why they’ve gone wrong and how to fix it.”
Mr Butterworth told councillors the six-figure sum paid in fines could have been better spent on education in the region.
SNP councillor Grant Laing asked if recycling bins being left unemptied resulted in even less waste being recycled if people then decided to dump all their waste in their green bins to avoid being slapped with a red tag.
Less than half of PKC’s waste was recycled in 2020/21 against a target of 60%.
In 2020/21 47.4% of PKC’s waste was recycled. This is a decline from 52.5% in 2019/20 and 51.4% in 2018/19.
Ms Mailer said there was no evidence of residents not bothering and putting everything in their green general waste bin instead.
SNP councillor Mike Williamson asked how much money PKC could have saved by meeting its recycling target. Officers were unable to provide this information at the meeting.
Cllr Williamson said he calculated PKC had been hit with an extra £1m in landfill tax from failing to meet its recycling target.
Cllr Williamson said: “I just want to express my astonishment that our failure to meet recycling targets is seeing the council haemorrhaging approximately £1m because of that failure.
“Haemorrhaging £1m and no one seems to have the detail of that is absolutely astonishing.”
By local democracy reporter Kathryn Anderson