District and borough councils in Hampshire have been told they must foot the bill for contaminated recycling.
Hampshire County Council said it would start charging councils responsible for collecting refuse if the wrong items end up in recyclable waste.
It says one in five lorry loads of recycling fails to meet standards.
District councils say the move would have serious financial implications and the county needs to allow more items, such as plastic pots, to be recycled.
The county, which is in charge of disposing and recycling household waste, said it would pass on the full cost of rejected loads to the authorities responsible for collecting it from April 2021.
It said there should be no impact on residents as a result of the proposals.
Environment councillor Rob Humby said: "In the national recycling league tables, not one district council in Hampshire is in the top half. This demonstrates that there is considerable room for improvement."
Fareham Borough Council said it was seeking legal advice on the proposals which it believed would cost it up to £500,000 a year.
A spokesman said: "The announcement... was not only unexpected, the decision was taken without any prior consultation with the borough councils."
Test Valley leader Phil North said the proposals would have "serious financial implications" for the authority's waste management.
Eastleigh Borough Council's environment councillor, Rupert Kyle, said: "We have been pressing Hampshire County Council to allow more items to be recycled for years and we demand that as the disposal authority, they let us recycle more, like most of the rest of the country."