Auckland Council is asking residents to up their game when it comes to recycling and is putting teams of bin inspectors on the streets to make it happen.
Non-recyclable rubbish incorrectly put in recycling bins costs ratepayers more than $170,000 a year - and can pose a danger to rubbish disposal workers.
"Any rubbish placed in recycling bins has to be processed at high expense at the sorting facility and ends up with the whole load being sent to landfill," says the council's environment and community committee Chair Penny Hulse.
"The level for incorrect materials sits at around 13 per cent for Auckland. Our aim is to get that down to five per cent."
To do that the council has introduced a new initiative involving teams of bin inspectors who check the contents of bins before they're picked up by the recycling truck.
Where they find non-recyclable materials in the bins which are less than 10 per cent of the total volume, the resident receives an orange warning tag and the bin is collected.
However if the wrong items are more than 10 per cent of the total volume, or if there are red flag items such as nappies, hazardous waste, liquid or wire, the bin is red tagged and won't be collected.
A letter explaining the reasons for non-collection is also put in the resident's mailbox.
Auckland Council's Waste Solutions GM Ian Stupple says the aim of the bin inspectors is to help residents get better at recycling.
"Inspectors have audited over 100,000 bins and so far just over 2200 bins have been red tagged," says Stupple.
"When we revisited areas where there were a large number of red tagged bins we noticed a marked improvement so it's clear this approach produces results."
Stupple says the council is happy to help people understand what can and can't be recycled but residents who continue to offend, or grossly contaminate their bin, will not have the bin emptied.