ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners have hit out at Test Valley Borough Council for collecting residents' green waste for recycling and then dumping it in landfill sites.

North Baddesley ward councillor Alan Dowden discovered the council has been dumping the waste - including grass cuttings, hedge-trimmings and kitchen waste - in landfill for more than a year without telling homeowners.

The council - the only local authority in Hampshire which collects green waste for composting - says it has no choice because of government restrictions imposed since the foot-and-mouth crisis.

But Test Valley Friends of the Earth spokeswoman Elaine Ewens said: "We are surprised to learn that the compostable waste collected by the council is not being composted. Defra (the Department for environment, Food and Rural Affairs) have confirmed that the composting of vegetable and fruit peelings does not contravene any regulations as long as it is not contaminated with other kitchen or catering waste.

"If Test Valley was concerned about this possibility they should have asked the public not to include peelings when Defra imposed foot-and-mouth restrictions over a year ago."

Cllr Dowden said: "The public are being duped because they are collecting their waste thinking they're being environmentally-friendly and it's all being dumped in a landfill site. I was staggered when I found out."

Test Valley scored just one star out of five in an Audit Commission review of its environmental health service because of its poor green waste record.

The inspectors also judged the council to be giving a "fair" service overall but "with little prospect of improvement".

Test Valley chief executive Alan Jones said residents can put all garden and kitchen waste, including eggshells, in the green waste bins for compost-ing.

He said: "But when foot-and-mouth came along the government introduced a directive preventing anybody from composting animal by-products at a public composting centre. We couldn't persuade the people who compost the material that we could guarantee there wasn't any animal by-products in our waste.

"Having spent so much time trying to educate the public to put their stuff in the bins in the first place, there would have been some confusion if we'd asked them not to include animal by-products, and at the end of the day it probably would be rejected by the composters anyway."

But Mr Jones said the council has now changed its mind and will ask residents only to put garden waste in the bins. He added: "We've been badgering the government to lift the ban on composting material. We're pretty angry because on the one hand the government are telling us we can't compost it and on the other hand the Audit Commission, which works for the government, are criticising us for not composting."