WHEN Stan Potter was told his recycling bin would not be collected because there was a black bag in it, he thought it was a joke.

Even when the 66-year-old pointed out the offending item was an empty Debenhams carrier bag, rather than a bin bag stuffed full with rubbish that cannot be recycled, contractors refused to take it.

Mr Porter, of Ferry Road, Hull-bridge, had fallen foul of Rochford Council’s tough new recycling rules.

The authority, which is already one of the greenest in the country, wants to reduce the amount of rubbish which is “contaminated” by items it does not recycle – including plastic carrier bags.

However, for Mr Porter, who will have to wait until next week for his bin to be emptied, the explanation was not good enough.

He said: “It just seemed ridiculous.It was an empty black bag, not a bag filled with normal rubbish. They just refused to take the whole lot, so now I’m left with a full bin.”

The council, which prides itself on its green record, was recently ranked second in the country in an unofficial league table, with a recycling rate of more than 65 per cent.

Bosses revealed the amount of “contaminated” rubbish has been rising over the past few months.

If more than 10 per cent of a truckload of recycling is judged to be non-recyclable, the entire load is taken to landfill.

Mike Steptoe, Tory councillor responsible for the environment, said: “That means a bigger bill for the council and a lot of wasted hard work for our residents who try to recycle. That is not what we want, so we are trying to encourage people to be more wary about what they put into their recycling.

“Plastic has become a bit of generic term.

“In reality, only some plastics can be recycled.”