Household waste and recycling is being mixed together in Birmingham as huge piles of rubbish are cleared during a refuse workers’ strike.
The waste, left on the streets for several weeks, is being dumped into the same trucks by staff and incinerated.
It comes as bin workers step up their strikes in a dispute with the city council over job losses.
The council said combining the waste was a “regrettable but temporary” measure.
Labour councillor Victoria Quinn described the situation as the “biggest waste disaster the city has seen”.
She told colleagues earlier she could smell the “stench” of uncollected rubbish while driving – even with the car windows up.
The dispute is over restructuring plans which trade union Unite says are threatening the jobs of more than 120 staff, while the council says plans will modernise the service and save £5m a year.
Union members have been refusing to work overtime since 30 June and have been carrying out almost-daily two-hour stoppages, which will increase to three hours from Friday.
The council said changes to working practices were vital because budgets had fallen.
But the authority has been criticised for mixing and burning the waste as it battles to remove the stockpiles.
Rob Grant, chairman of Birmingham Green Party, said he was “appalled” by the move.
“Families go to a lot of trouble to carefully sort cardboard, plastic bottles and glass from the rest of the rubbish, ready for collection,” he said.
“It’s completely unacceptable for the council to just decide to burn the lot without telling anybody. It’s just irresponsible – I’m quite shocked.”
Moseley resident Alison Wilkinson said she was “not impressed” that recycling was being mixed with other waste.
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“I am going to be taking my recycling to the local supermarket, but you can’t recycle plastic there, and there is so much plastic,” she said.
Unite said the walkouts would continue until September after talks with the authority failed.
The council is apologising to residents for the disruption.