Auckland Council is deploying agents across the region to rummage through your recycling bin.

The purpose is to catch "recycling cheats". One rascal tossed a disposable coffee cup. The horror. His bin was orange tagged. The tag was just a warning but what next? Prosecutions? It won't be long before Nana will be fined for putting a plastic bag in the recycling.

It's very Big Brother - and quite the expense. Recycling has gone from a happy, hippy thing to council policy statements and state agents poring through your rubbish issuing defect notices.

It's not like it's a big deal - kerbside collection accounts for 15 per cent of the rubbish in Auckland's landfills. And there's no prospect of ever running out of landfill space.


The council's environment chairwoman, Penny Hulse, hasn't helped with her reported explanation. She said incorrect rubbish in the recycling bin was costing the council $170,000 a year. That's a fair sum - but way less than the cost of agents roaming streets checking rubbish, I would have thought.

Hulse further explained: "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."

She also said the level for "incorrect materials" was about 13 per cent and the council wanted it down to 5 per cent.

It's a wonder there's any recycling, even if it was just 5 per cent contamination.

Current contamination levels suggest Aucklanders like the idea of recycling but can't be bothered. They have better things to do.

The cheapest and easiest option is probably just to go back to a single big rubbish bin. We can do our own recycling at home.

Anyway, turns out we shouldn't worry too much about what does and doesn't go in the big blue bin.

This week, physics genius Stephen Hawking declared, "[President] Trump's action [of withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change] could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of 250C, and raining sulphuric acid."


That's at the upper end of scary climate predictions but it puts throwing a disposable cup into the wrong bin into proper perspective.