TAXPAYERS had to shell out hundreds of thousands of pounds to deal with waste wrongly placed in recycling bins last year, figures suggest.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) data shows 2,321 tonnes of waste collected by Southend Council were rejected at the point of sorting in the year to March – less than the 3,473 tonnes rejected the previous year.

In Basildon, 1,307 tonnes of waste collected was rejected, also down on the previous year’s figure of 1,449 tonnes.

Recycling charity Wrap estimates that waste disposed of as recycling, which is then found not to be recyclable, costs councils around £93 per tonne to dispose of.

It would mean rejected waste cost taxpayers in Southend an estimated £215,853 in 2020-21 alone while in Basildon residents lost an estimated £121,551.

Basildon councillor Kerry Smith believes residents are being let down by companies and has called for clearer packaging indications over what can be recycled.

He said: “It’s ever so confusing, you almost need a minor degree in science to work out what type of plastic is what. Residents do their bit, but I think there needs to be an industry standard way of helping them understand what goes where.

“There’s not much councils can actually do about this, it’s down to the industry to make it easier for the consumer.”

Southend cabinet member Martin Terry also believes confusing packaging is prime driver for the issue.

“It is good to see improved figures, and it is clear that households have made a real shift to ensure they are recycling as much as possible,” he said.

“We work hard with residents to share information on what can and can’t be recycled, recently running a bespoke engagement initiative to do just that.

“Unfortunately, the labelling on packaging can cause confusion for residents and other items which cannot be recycled commonly find their way into our pink bags.

“This leads to wasted resources transporting and separating these items, and in the case of severe contamination can affect the recycling it has been mixed with. All of this could be helped by better labelling and the use of the right bag, box or bin.”