REFUSE collectors refused to take a disabled pensioner's recycling away because he had accidentally dropped a teabag inside the dustbin.

Donald MacKenzie, who is registered disabled, had carefully sorted his plastic, tin and glass into the correct recycling wheelie bin and says he has no idea how the teabag got inside.

A note pushed through the 74-year-old's door on Lammack Road, Blackburn, said the bulging wheelie bin had been left because of "food waste" next to which someone had written "T bag".

Green campaigners have branded their actions "over the top and draconian". Others called it "stupid."

After the Lancashire Telegraph raised the issue with Blackburn with Darwen council, bosses said there had been a "misunderstanding" and promised to go back to his house and empty the bin.

Mr MacKenzie, who has difficulty walking, said: "It must have been dropped in by mistake, but this is so utterly stupid.

"I always make a definite effort to recycle, I take it very seriously."

After his grey bin - which is meant for all recyclables - had been left untouched last Tuesday Mr MacKenzie, a retired baker, phoned the council for clarification, but was again told he had left food waste in the bin.

He added: "It's so ridiculous - now I will have to wait another two weeks for it to be collected. It's already full, so I will have to use my next door neighbour's bin.

"I always sort my recycling out, and put it in separate bags to keep the bin clean. But at times like this I wonder why I bother."

Ward councillor and deputy council leader Michael Lee vowed to look into the matter.

He said: "This is stupid, and I will be raising it at the next meeting. The whole idea behind this system is if someone's put something in by mistake you speak to them and remind them not to.

"You have to use common sense. We anticipate there will be some contamination, we have already said that.

"To treat someone like this is absolutely ridiculous."

Peter Hunt, director of regeneration and environment, said: "There seems to have been a misunderstanding, which we have been happy to clear up. A supervisor from our recycling contractors, Greenstar, has been to see the customer, and we have arranged to empty his bin.

"Food waste in recycling bins can cause contamination that results in whole truckloads of recyclables being unusable and having to go to landfill, so we do have to be careful. That's why we ask people to keep their non-recyclable waste out of their recycling bin."

Chris Coates, a Lancashire Green Party county councillor, said: "If we are to increase recycling rates we need to help, not hinder people.

"The odd teabag really shouldn't make any difference. This sort of action should be reserved for people who leave side waste out in the street.

"It's over the top and draconian."

Brian Todd, of Blackburn with Darwen Older People's Forum, said: "It's one of those ridiculous bureaucratic things where they just think about rules, not human beings.

"With older people there are likely to be mistakes now and again, but with something very minor like this you would have thought they could use some discretion."

Last month residents of Skipton, in North Yorkshire, were told they had to help to empty their own bins because of fears binmen could hurt themselves lifting recycling compartments out of dustbins.

And last week it was revealed a pensioner in the Ribble Valley had been told to walk half a mile to put out her own bins because new lorries could't make it up her road.