A Devon mother-of-three accused of failing to sort household waste properly has been cleared at Cullompton Magistrates Court.
In what is thought to be the first case of its kind, Donna Challice, 31, of Wonford, Exeter, was cleared of the six charges brought against her by Exeter City Council under the Environmental Protection Act.
Challice had denied putting waste that included leftover takeaways, cigarette ends, bicycle parts and the contents of a vacuum cleaner in her green recycling bin.
“We have not decided today as to whether she is responsible for the contamination, but in making our decision we feel that the prosecution has not proved their case beyond reasonable doubt as they have been unable to prove that she was responsible for the contamination in the green bins.”
Challice faced a possible fine of £1,000 and court costs if found guilty of the alleged incidents which were said to have taken place between November 2005 and February 2006.
Her solicitor Mark Shell said: “She is very overwhelmed. This has been a very high profile case with a lot of press coverage which is not something she is used to.
“She is just very numb at the moment. I think she just wants to get back home to her kids and wake up tomorrow knowing this is behind her.”
Prosecutor Richard Banwell had said that as the council has a statutory recycling target to meet set by Government, it was important that rubbish was correctly sorted because one contaminated bin could affect the entire load in a lorry.
While all householders had been sent leaflets explaining what could be put in the green bins, the council had experienced difficulty persuading residents of the Burnthouse Lane area where Challice lived to sort their rubbish correctly.
In all, 20 householders were served with enforcement notices and Challice’s two bins were subsequently found to contain the wrong sort of rubbish during a series of inspections in February this year.
Shell said that the council had a duty to bring such cases as this, but needed to investigate allegations more thoroughly.