FIFTY tonnes a week of good quality cardboard set aside by householders for recycling is instead being incinerated, a whistleblower has alleged.

The Veolia employee told The Argus that for the last five weeks, around 10 tonnes a day of material which should be taken for recycling is being burned along with general waste at the Newhaven incinerator.

That amount constitutes around one fifth of the cardboard collected daily from Brighton and Hove’s recycling bins and processed at Veolia’s Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Hollingdean.

Mark Turner, branch secretary of the GMB union, confirmed that several of his members with access to the site had made similar reports.

A Veolia spokeswoman denied the claims, telling The Argus that only unsuitable cardboard is ever treated as general waste.

But our source rejected the firm’s response as “hogwash”.

The man, who has asked to remain anonymous, said cardboard already compacted into huge bales and prepared for recycling is being moved by forklift from the area of the depot designated for recycling, across to the “transfer station” from where general rubbish gets picked up and shipped off to Newhaven and to landfill.

The source said a forklift load constitutes around one tonne of material and that an average of ten trips a day are being carried out.

He said: “It’s been going on for five weeks. They haven’t got enough staff to process the stuff properly.

“The morale of staff is so low. Just imagine, you’re paid to recycle, and you see this stuff being burned.

“And if people at home go to all that trouble to recycle, and then the company with the contract is burning it because they can’t do it properly - they’re failing the council and failing taxpayers.”

The Argus has confirmed the man’s identity and seen payslips and correspondence confirming his position at the company.

His role at Veolia’s Hollingdean MRF means he is well-placed to observe the transfer of materials from location to location at the site.

GMB union boss Mark Turner said: “I have been contacted by a considerable number of members who go into that plant, from Cityclean and other firms, who have told me that recyclable material is being shipped out with the general waste.

“That is awful when the council is trying to increase recycling.”

Despite having a strong Green political presence, Brighton and Hove has long languished towards the bottom of the nation’s recycling league tables.

The figures for 2015/2016, were just 24.68 per cent, leaving the city ranked bottom against “statistical neighbours” - comparable authority areas.

Brighton and Hove City Council told The Argus it had received “assurances” from Veolia that only cardboard unsuitable for recycling would be treated as waste.

A Brighton and Hove City Council spokeswoman said: “We're striving to reduce waste and increase the amount of materials we, as a city, recycle.

“Cardboard, along with other recyclables, is sorted at the city’s Material Recovery Facility (MRF) and we are assured by our contractor, Veolia, that it would only ever be treated as waste if it had been contaminated and therefore become unsuitable for recycling.

“We’ve recently introduced wheelie bins for around 60,000 households to make recycling easier and to reduce the likelihood of contamination.

“We’re confident that with the support of residents, we can achieve our aim of improving recycling rates and become a far more eco-responsible city.”

The council website states that cardboard left out for recycling goes on to be turned into packing materials and cardboard tubes by companies in Newhaven and Kent.

A Veolia spokeswoman said: “Materials are delivered into our recycling facility from a number of sources - kerbside collections, household waste recycling sites and commercial collections from offices and factories.

“We would never reject materials that can be recycled as they are very valuable and we will turn them into new products as part of the circular economy.

“The quality of the material from these sources varies and if it isn’t suitable for recycling we will reject it to protect the quality of the material for downstream recycling.”

When The Argus put the company’s response to our source last night, he said: “That’s convenient - but it’s hogwash.

“We do have stuff sometimes where people put other things in with their cardboard, but there’s maybe two-three tonnes a week.

“This has been ten tonnes a day, for weeks. That’s loads more than you’d expect because of low quality.

“There’s no way they can justify 150 or maybe 250 tonnes in the last five weeks being rejected. And if that’s the case, they should be able to provide the forms and the pictures they have to take when they reject cardboard as non-conformed.”

The Argus could not ask for that evidence last night since no Veolia spokesperson was available to ask.