Binmen have rejected more than 5,000 bins in just two weeks because residents have used the wrong coloured bag or contaminated their rubbish with food.

Thousands of residents in south Oxfordshire have found their recycling bins unemptied because they have put the wrong items in them.

During one week of recycling collections in the past month there were 3,801 reports of wrong items found in recycling bins in South Oxfordshire including clothes and food waste. In the Vale of White Horse there were 2,211 reports of wrong items contaminating recycling.

Bin crews in South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse districts have been monitoring recycling bins over lockdown due to an increase in household waste, which has meant an increase in the risk of people putting the wrong items in recycling bins.

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If non-recyclable items are misplaced and put in the recycling bin the whole truckload of waste is contaminated, causing it to be rejected at the recycling facility.

Contaminated recycling causes neighbours’ recycling to become rubbish and wastes energy and raw materials by removing these items from the recycling process.

Councillor David Rouane said: “The waste contractor needs to know that the recycling is of a standard that is accepted by the materials recovery facility. With reduced staffing levels at the site, to maintain social distancing, and the increase in quantity of material being sent there, it is important that it receives good quality recycling.”

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The majority of recycling bins were rejected because residents had used coloured or black bags instead of clear bags, meaning crews cannot see what is inside them so do not empty the bin.

Other reasons for unemptied recycling bins include food contamination and textile items such as old T-shirts and socks being put into the recycling bins.

Other non-recyclable items which are regularly found by bin crews in recycling bins are polystyrene, plastic toys, garden waste, electrical items, wood and nappies.

Councillor Jenny Hannaby said: “The councils and their waste contractor are determined to reduce contamination and residents can help them do it by educating themselves on what can and can’t go into the recycling bins.”