The GOVERNMENT has written to Swindon council expressing concern that it might stop collecting plastic for recycling.

In September the borough council announced it was thinking of stopping collecting plastic for recycling from the doorstep.

Instead it might ask householders to put plastics in their ordinary back bins which would be sent to the solid fuel recovery plant at Waterside Park, along with other unrecyclable waste, where it is turned into fuel for industrial purposes and ultimately burned.

Launching a public engagement exercise the council said it was concerned that plastic it collected was sent to the Far East where it may not have been actually properly recycled.

But this has not found favour with Environment Minister in Whitehall Dr Therese Coffey.

She has written to Councillor Maureen Penny, the council’s cabinet member for the environment asking her to "reflect carefully on this decision."

Dr Coffey points out Swindon’s recycling rate has dropped 12 percentage points since 2010 to 38 per cent. and says: "I find the new the council proposes to drop plastic waste for recycling concerning. This is surely a regressive step and would seem to run counter to the priority order in waste hierarchy which places recycling above options such as energy recovery and disposal."

"I am also concerned about the impact your decision to stop collecting plastics will have on future householder engagement.

"While I understand your concerns about the uncertainty on what happens to recycling once exported this would suggest the need for clearer communications about the end destination of exported plastics rather than stopping certain kerbside collections completely."

The junior minister in Michael Gove’s department concludes: "The government is committed to increasing the amount of waste we recycle and wants local authorities to respond positively and constructively to residents’ desires to recycle more and not to withdraw services, even temporarily."

Councillor Maureen Penny, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways and the Environment, responded: "We would like to thank the Minister for her letter.

"No decisions have been made with regard to how we deal with our plastic waste and our wider strategy on how we deal with all our waste will be considered at next month’s cabinet meeting."

Previously the council has said it could collect plastics as ordinary waste to be sent to the SRF plant as a temporary measure until the system of plastics recycling is better co-ordinated nationally.

It is understood more than 3,000 people have responded to the council's proposals