19 April 2021 by James Langley

Keep Britain Tidy tackles contamination in Milton Keynes

Keep Britain Tidy is working with Milton Keynes Council to help residents recycle correctly and drive down contamination.

Reports in local Milton Keynes press had raised concerns about the ‘bin police’ going through residents’ recycling.

Dirty nappies, glass bottles, food waste, and old clothes are examples of items that have contaminated recycling in Milton Keynes

However, Keep Britain Tidy clarified to letsrecycle.com that the work was being carried out to gain a better understanding of why people contaminate their recycling. A spokesperson for Milton Keynes council told letsrecycle.com no fines would “ever” be issued as a result of the work.

Councillor Emily Darlington, cabinet member for public realm at Milton Keynes council, said: “We know that more and more people in Milton Keynes are committed to recycling and are trying to get it right, but every week we see a lot of things in the clear recycling sacks that shouldn’t be there, like dirty nappies, glass bottles, food waste, and old clothes.

“Dealing with things that cannot be recycled costs Milton Keynes council hundreds of thousands of pounds per year. That’s money that could be better spent to help local people. We are very pleased to be working with Keep Britain Tidy to help residents recycle correctly.”

According to a contract award notice published on 24 November 2020, the council’s deal with Keep Britain Tidy is worth £97,500 and runs from 1 December 2020 to 30 November 2021.

‘Bin police’

Warning letters are said to have been issued in several cases where residents were found to have put contaminated items in their recycling on more than one occasion. However, the Milton Keynes council spokesperson told letsrecycle.com: “No fines will ever be issued.”

“With negative articles like this for schemes which aren’t even resulting in fines or bin removals, I despair”

London local government officer

It was reported locally that the council had employed ‘“bin police” in Milton Keynes to sift through recycling bags on doorsteps and issue warning letters.

The coverage was criticised by one local government officer on LinkedIn: “With negative articles like this for schemes which aren’t even resulting in fines or bin removals, I despair. Perhaps the headline should be ‘Council launches education programme to help save £1m unnecessary expenditure on contamination’.”


The work follows Milton Keynes council’s participation in behavioural research, carried out last year by Keep Britain Tidy’s Centre for Social Innovation, which sought to get ‘inside the head of the contaminator’.

Using the research, Keep Britain Tidy worked with Milton Keynes to design a programme of behavioural interventions and support to tackle contamination in the area.

The programme consists of a content review which will update the waste and recycling information available on the Milton Keynes council website.

It also entails direct feedback to households who are contaminating their recycling and new communication delivered to households in pilot areas aiming to disrupt current contamination behaviours, particularly in groups who already think they are recycling correctly.

Milton Keynes

Representing an estimated population of nearly 250,000, Milton Keynes council had a household waste recycling rate of 56.3% in the 2019/20 financial year.

Recycling collections in Milton Keynes are currently carried out by Serco under a deal due to end in April 2023

Recycling collections in Milton Keynes are currently carried out by Serco under a deal due to end in April 2023.

In a delegated decision report published on 23 March, the Labour-run council confirmed homes in Milton Keynes would receive four-wheeled bins each from April 2023 as part of plans to reduce contamination and increase recycling (see letsrecycle.com story). The council reported that contamination in recycling sacks was above 20%.

On 12 March Milton Keynes announced it had joined with Keep Britain Tidy and other local authorities across the country to launch a separate campaign aimed at stopping people trying to recycle disposable nappies and contaminating recycling.


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