BIN police could be coming to Southampton under plans to further boost recycling rates.

Refuse collectors would check bins to make sure residents are disposing of their rubbish correctly.

Those who stubbornly refuse to recycle or repeatedly put recyclables in the wrong bin could face a fine of up to £1,000.

Current staff have already been trained for the job. However a £30,000-ayear waste awareness officer would be employed to "educate" residents on their bad habits.

The ruling Conservatives have earmarked £70,000 towards the introduction of the "compulsory recycling" under their £173m budget plans for next year.

They say the scheme could save 3,750 tonnes going to landfill.

Councillor Gavin Dick, Cabinet member for the environment, said: "It's going to be a gentle approach to start with.

"If you are stuffing nappies in a blue (recycling) bin we may have a word.

"We are not looking at penalising people who put a plastic carton in an incorrect bin."

Cllr Dick said stickers would be put on "contaminated bins" and leaflets posted through letterboxes.

Repeat offenders would then be given a lesson on how to recycle properly from a special advice team.

A last resort would be an enforcement notice under the Environmental Protection Act, which if ignored could lead to a fine of up to £1,000.

"We believe in education rather than dictatorial punishment," Cllr Dick said.

He insisted there were no plans to put Big Brother-style chips in bins to charge for waste or introduce a hated fortnightly household waste collection.

Terry Hinton from the Unite union said that his members backed the council's move.

"You have hardliners who don't give a monkeys and won't recycle. They cause the council a lot of problems in time and money. What do you do, leave the waste or try to deal with it?"

He added: "We are not going to be tipping bins upside and going through them."

Mr Hinton admitted: "There could be confrontation. But staff understand about personal safety and will walk away."

He city patrol officers could be brought in to deal with enforcement if needed.

Test Valley Borough Council already employs eight bin police, or recycling advisors, who keep a secret database of repeat offenders. The scheme costs about one per cent of the council's annual budget.

One councillor whose bin was subjected to a spot check labelled the spending as "exorbitant''.

Southampton City Council currently recycles more than 30 per cent of its waste.

Rates could jump around ten per cent to 43 per cent if the Government in coming months allows councils in Hampshire to count the re-use of ash from burnt waste.

A spokesman for the TaxPayers' Alliance, a lower tax pressure group, said: "A lot of people will be concerned that this is not the best way to spend their money.

"They will be uncomfortable with the idea that instead of paying for good services money is being spent on people rifling through their bins."