AN INVESTIGATION will be launched into reports that recyclable waste is being incinerated.

It follows growing calls for an inquiry after The Argus’s story about the allegations yesterday.

The announcement from environment committee chairwoman Councillor Gill Mitchell came as senior politicians demanded Brighton and Hove City Council takes decisive action.

The council’s initial statement to The Argus made no mention of an investigation and said it had “received assurances” all was well.

But Cllr Mitchell said yesterday: “In view of the recent reports in the local media regarding the recycling of cardboard by the council’s contractor, Veolia, I am requesting that an investigation is undertaken by this council and via the Joint Waste Partnership with East Sussex County Council.

“While I appreciate that contamination of materials does occur, it is obviously vital that all East Sussex residents, including here in Brighton and Hove, have full confidence in the way their recycling is managed and that the optimum amount of material put out for recycling does indeed get recycled, with current rates the highest they’ve been in five years.”

A spokesman for the county council, Brighton’s partner in commissioning Veolia to deal with recycling, confirmed it would be taking part in the investigation which will start next week.

Yesterday The Argus published allegations from a whistleblower, corroborated by union members, that at Veolia’s Hollingdean recycling plant one-tonne bales of cardboard prepared for recycling are instead being put in with general waste and shipped off to Newhaven to be burned.

Our source said the practice has been going on for five weeks and amounted to a fifth of the city’s cardboard. He blamed understaffing and poor management.

Veolia denies the accusations.

Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, said: “It’s absolutely scandalous that Veolia are sending recyclable material to the incinerator.

“People spend their time sorting their rubbish and expect those paid handsomely for waste collection to do the right thing and recycle materials whenever possible.

“The company should immediately come clean about how much recyclable material is being incinerated and apologise to the people of this city for letting us down. The future of this contract may now need reviewing too.”

Her Labour counterpart in Hove Peter Kyle said: “If the news about bales of cardboard being incinerated is true, this is a serious breach of trust and it would break my heart to have the news confirmed.

“I have therefore written to the leader of the council and the chair of the environment committee to ask for an investigation.”

Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Labour MP for Kemptown said: “I hope that the council will investigate these allegations and take immediate action.”

Mark Turner, the GMB union boss who said he had also received reports of recycling being incinerated, said: “There must be an investigation.

“This reminds me of the Mears and Coin Co scandals – can anyone at this council manage their subcontractors?”

In 2015 the council was overcharged more than £300,000 by an unnamed plastering company subcontracted by developer Mears.

In December 2014 when parking meter collection firm Coin Co International went into administration, it took with it more than £3 million of council money. Questions were asked how such a large debt was allowed to accrue in a cash handling business.

Lee Wares, Conservative group spokesman on the council’s environment committee, said: “This is a terrible message to be sending our residents.

“How on earth does the Labour administration expect residents to improve their recycling when all Veolia does is burn it?

“Residents need a very good explanation from the Labour administration as to why they are allowing this to happen. It isn’t good enough that the council have received reassurance from the contractor; somebody needs to get down there and find out precisely what is going on.”

Leo Littman, Green party environment spokesman, said: “If the allegations prove to be true, the terms of the contract would certainly need to be looked at.”

A Veolia spokesperson said the copmany was committed to recycling as much cardboard as possible but some material was contaminated and unsuitable for recycling.

She went on: "In recent months reprocessors are demanding even higher quality material standards and therefore our processes must reflect this.

"To reiterate it is far better environmentally and financially to send cardboard for recycling with cardboard prices currently at £110-£130 per tonne compared with energy recovery or landfill which costs money.

"We work with all our suppliers to improve recycling quality and continue to encourage householders to separate and recycle their cardboard as part of the 2 million tonnes of materials we recycle every year.”"