The case of Donna Challice attracted widespread media coverage when she appeared at Cullompton Magistrates Court on charges of putting the wrong waste in her recycling bin.
While the mother-of-three was acquitted at a cost of £6,000 to Exeter City Council (ECC), it appears the episode did in fact reap some benefits for the local authority.
An ECC spokeswoman said: Contaminated recycling costs the council around £100,000 a year. It also poses a health and safety risk to our staff, affects the efficient operation of our sorting plant and affects the quality of our recyclate.
If bringing this case to court has helped change just a few peoples attitude to recycling, we feel it has been worth it. It will also have made people aware that they can be brought to task for failing to recycle properly.
The councils provisional recycling figures for the period April to June is 31% compared to 25.5% for the same period last year. While this has been put down to a number of factors, one is said to be the publicity that case gained.
We do think that the case brought the issue of recycling to the forefront of peoples minds and that it has increased awareness among residents. Since the case, our enforcement officers have reported people taking more care over their recycling.
Most people understand the importance of recycling and the positive effects it has on the environment. We want to ensure that the thoughtless minority do not spoil it for the selfless majority. ECC will continue to take action against people who wilfully contaminate their recycling bins, the spokeswoman added.
The council has now met the Government requirement of recycling over 30% of waste and is pushing ahead as it strives to reach the 40% mark by 2010/11.