CONSCIENTIOUS householders who have been separating their green waste for collection by Test Valley Borough Council have been wasting their time for more than a year.

All the green waste collected from the kerbside has been dumped in landfill rather than turned into 'Progrow' compost - because government regulations have banned the use of kitchen scraps in compost for fear of spreading foot and mouth disease.

At a meeting of the council in Andover Guildhall Cllr Alan Dowden asked why Test Valley continued to dump its green waste.

Chief executive, Alan Jones, replied: "It became illegal to compost waste and that restriction has not been lifted - until the only alternative we have is to dump the compost in landfill.

"We have been landfilling when the public believed its waste was going into compost."

Portfolio holder, Derrick Roach, said: "It was a deliberate decision and if we had done otherwise it may well have turned the public off recycling altogether."

But Mr Dowden thought it would have been better for the council to have been 'honest with the public'.

After the meeting Mr Jones said there had been no intention to deceive the public.

It had been made known the waste would not be used for composting at the height of the foot and mouth crisis.

Since then, and despite regular appeals to the Government, no indication had been given as to when normal service could be resumed. Now the council has decided to appeal directly to residents to improve the quality of green waste collected, in a bid to reduce the waste sent to landfill sites.

It wants residents to only put garden pruning, clippings, grass cuttings, leaves and cut flowers into their brown recycling bins.

Other materials such as meat, fish, cooked foods, fruit and vegetable cores and peelings, egg shells, dairy produce, tea bags and coffee grounds should all be put in with the ordinary household waste or composted at home.

Council leader, Ian Carr, said: "With help and co-operation from the public I am confident we will continue our composting service at its original cost and standard.

"The long-term composting of kitchen waste will have to await a lifting of the Government ban."