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Recycling right could save taxpayers millions

Which? report shows recycling could save £12m
A woman holding a recycling box in her kitchen

Recycle as much household rubbish as possible

Council tax bills could be cut by millions of pounds if councils and households improved the way they recycle, according to new research

Figures obtained by show that nearly 230,000 tonnes of recycling and composting material put out by households in England last year was rejected and sent to landfill, costing taxpayers £12m.

Recycling rejection rates

About 5% of recyclable items collected on the doorstep are rejected, but found that some councils rejected more than twice that amount. Councils that use co-mingled collection systems, where materials are collected mixed together, generally have higher rejection rates than those that operate a kerbside sorting system.

Recycling is rejected when it is ‘contaminated’, for example if people put the wrong materials in the wrong bin. says that improved collection systems, clearer information about how to recycle, and more careful recycling by consumers could reduce the amount that ends up in landfill.

It costs councils more to send rubbish to landfill than it does to recycle it, so the more people recycle successfully, the lower council tax bills should be. Sending rubbish to landfill will cost £620m this year in England alone.

Effective recycling 

Jess Ross, editor of, says: ‘Recycling our household waste has never been easier, but more could be done by councils and by consumers to ensure that we recycle more waste, more effectively. 

‘Not only will it reduce the amount of waste going to landfill, but it could even save us money on our council tax bills – which is a great incentive to recycle better.’

The full article ‘The truth about recycling’ appears in the May 2009 issue of Which? magazine.

You can also check out our guide to buying energy-saving appliances.

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