Croydon Council has been caught sending recyclable waste to landfill, just days after announcing plans to fine residents who don't recycle.
An investigation by the Croydon Guardian has revealed paper, cardboard, plastic bottles, plastic containers and paper cups are all being thrown out by the council into its landfill bins at its main office, Taberner House.
On two separate visits to the bins this week we found bags destined for landfill containing significant amounts of waste that could have been recycled.
A source within the refuse collections services revealed that throwing away recyclable materials into landfill has been a longstanding problem at a number of council buildings.
The revelations come as cabinet members were due last night to approve a compulsory recycling scheme to crackdown on non-recylcing.
During the first six months of the crackdown, the council will advise residents who are not recycling to recycle their recyclable waste which they were throwing out in landfill bins.
If people continue not to recycle, they will receive a reminder letter, then face £80 fines after 12 weeks of reminders.
The council has warned court action could be taken as a last resort for failure to comply with the scheme.
The refuse collections service insider said: "The council may want to look at themselves first before they start fining everyone. It is unbelievable.
"It has been the same for many many years. Every day and week is the same with bins overflowing and a lot of it is recyclable.
"If they recycled all the recyclable stuff they chuck into landfill, I reckon there would only be a few bins worth of rubbish a day.
"They have all sorts of recycling bins there, for plastic, paper, shredded paper but yet landfill is always overflowing. I am not exaggerating. It is that bad."
Tracey Hague, from the Croydon Green Party, said the council should get their own house in order, before worrying about other people's.
She said: "They have proved why fines shouldn’t be used in this new scheme. It is about educating people, in their case staff, and encouraging them to recycle, not beating people with a financial stick.
"They need to monitor their own recycling. Maybe they should have some inter-department competition to help incentivise recycling.
"If you are introducing something such as fines then you need to put your own house in order, otherwise people will start pointing the finger. You don’t want to become a laughing stock."
A council spokesman said there was no excuse and the council should be leading by example. He added that they would be reminding staff to recycle.
He said: "It's clear from these photos that some items that should have been put into the office recycling bins have found their way into the general waste.
"What should be noted is how much paper, card, glass and plastic we do recycle from the council offices.
"That said, at a time when we are doing so much to encourage residents to use the borough's excellent recycling facilities there can be no excuse for us to not be leading by example."
The Department of environment, food and rural affairs (DEFRA) has issued directives to councils saying they have a key role to play in making sure recycling is increased and Britain heads towards a zero waste economy.
Croydon has a wide range of waste and recycling collection services, with food waste collections introduced in October 2011.
The borough’s recycling record has improved in recent years, with recycling rates hitting 38.1 per cent in 2011-2012 compared to 16 per cent in 2005-2006. The aim is to reach 46 per cent in 2013.
A spokeswoman for the charity Keep Britain Tidy, would not comment directly on the recycling problems at the Croydon Council offices.
She said it was important to think before putting rubbish in the bin.
She said: "It is vital that everyone does their bit to increase recycling and reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfill."