Mountains of recycled rubbish spring up across UK

Experts estimate that up to 15 per cent of all recycling is now being stored in warehouses and ports, waiting for a buyer.

Some of the waste could be stuck there for a year.

One in four councils has asked for more storage capacity to cope with the problem, which is likely to have worsened because of the volume of recycling generated over Christmas.

Councils have been forced to recycle more by facing higher penalties for every tonne of waste that they dump in landfill to help the UK hit new European Union recycling targets.

But demand for recycling material has dropped sharply since October as sales of new cars, white goods and new homes - which provide a market for recycled material - have tailed off in the global downturn.

The price of recycled cans has fallen from £200 a tonne to £20 a tonne, while paper and card has also dropped from £60 a tonne to just £10 a tonne.

Prices have now fallen so far that the cost of making new plastic is cheaper than reusing the recycled material. The result has been a big increase in stockpiles of recycled rubbish, which contractors are battling to clear.

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