Councils in Oxfordshire are being allowed to store more recyclable waste at contractors’ depots after prices crashed.

The move follows urgent talks between the Government-funded Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), based in Banbury, the Environment Agency, and the Department of Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) which met to discuss the growing problem of prices for recyclable waste that in some cases have tumbled to zero.

Prices for paper and card, usually exported to China, now range from £0-£10 a tonne compared to £30-35 last month, while mixed colour plastic bottles are now priced at £0-20 compared with £40-£80 at the end of October.

In a statement WRAP and DEFRA said: “The storage of recyclables at sites regulated by the Environment Agency is a normal part of the secondary materials business.

“We expect there may be increased storage of some materials in the short term and the Environment Agency is issuing helpful guidance on its approach. In making decisions, local authorities and their contactors will want to ensure they have a home for material that is being stored in the short term, that the storage won’t compromise the environment and doesn’t lead to deterioration in the quality of the materials that will further reduce their recyclability or value.”

The Local Government Association is issuing advice to local authorities in England on practical measures that can be taken.

Paul Mocroft of the Oxfordshire Waste Partnership, which co-ordinates all the county’s district councils’ recycling programmes, said: “In Oxfordshire there is as yet no more storage than usual but obviously we are working closely with contractors and watching the situation closely.”

Steve Creed, WRAP’s director of business growth, said: “Recycling remains a better and cheaper option than sending material to landfill. So people should continue recycling.”-