Dutifully separating their cardboard, paper, tins, plastic, glass and garden waste from their general rubbish, thousands of people have helped fuel a steady rise in recycling – and a reduction in landfill.
According to Government figures, recycling rates rose every year without fail in Nottingham, from 19.5 per cent in 2005-06 to 37.3 per cent 2010-11.
But last year, it fell to 33.2 per cent.
The sudden drop was mirrored by borough and district councils across Notts – except in Gedling, which managed a small increase.
The recession has been blamed for the fall, with funding cuts putting a squeeze on services offered by the council and residents having less money to buy packaged products.
But in response to the new figures published by Defra residents, campaigners and councils have all expressed a desire to turn around the decline.
Kaye Brennan, chairman of Netherfield Eco Action Team, said: "We would be keen to support an increase in resources for recycling.
"I think people are willing to pay for recycling schemes but I think it's something the council should be investing in."
Kaye, who lives in Colwick, added: "I also think that packaging is a real issue, and customers can't affect this.
"There is still a surprising amount of packaging which is not recycleable."
Nigel Lee, of Nottingham Friends of the Earth, said he believed the city council's decision to stop collecting food waste had an impact on the figures, and he would have preferred to see the scheme extended across the city.
"They were doing pilots in parts of the city, which they abandoned – and they abandoned it for cost reasons."
He said the campaign group believed kerbside sorting – where residents sort materials which can be collected in different compartments of a specialist recycling collection lorry – would greatly increase recycling rates.
Mr Lee said this would allow more materials to be collected, which would otherwise be put in with general waste, and better quality recyclable materials, allowing the council to get a better price for them.
Some residents think their council is already doing enough.
George Todd, 73, of Westleigh Road in Strelley, has one bin for general rubbish and two more – for garden waste and for recyclables such as glass, paper and tins.
He said: "I think the recycling is brilliant. I don't think there's much more that they could recycle.
"And if it's burnt at the incinerator, this helps to heat parts of Nottingham through the district heating scheme."
John Watson, 82, of Castle Close, Calverton, said: "I think the recycling schemes are pretty good. But there are lots of products where you don't know if they are recycleable or not, such as some types of plastic trays."
Councillor Alan Clark, portfolio holder for energy and sustainability, was optimistic about future recycling, despite the drop over the last year.
"We have plans in place now that we hope will increase recycling performance," he said.
"We are introducing the possibility for residents in flats to recycle waste in new orange bags designed to survive collection from communal bins and have their contents recycled.
"And we will run a campaign in the New Year to reinforce the message about what can and what can not be recycled."
In 2006-07, Rushcliffe Borough Council was the third best performing council in the country for recycling.
However, since then its performance has levelled out and it has been overtaken by dozens of other local authorities.
David Banks, head of environment and waste management at Rushcliffe Borough Council, said: "Rushcliffe continues to perform extremely well with a recycling and composting rate of over 51 per cent compared to the previous year's 54 per cent rate.
"Rushcliffe has seen a small reduction in the amount of waste recycled in the blue bin. This may be down to manufacturers producing less packaging and also to consumers' buying preferences in the current economic climate.
"Whilst the introduction of a chargeable green waste collection service has seen an inevitable small drop in overall recycling performance, the take up of the service has been extremely high with nearly 26,000 households signing up to have their green bin emptied for only £25 per year."
He added that the council would keep trying to see where it can improve recycling rates and keep contamination to a minimum.
In Gedling, the one place in the county where recycling increased, Councillor Seamus Creamer said: "We provide the service and facilities to encourage recycling and will continue to look at ways to reduce the amount sent for incineration or to landfill."
Nationally, the average recycling rate has continued to rise, although the rate has been slowing since its peak in 2005.
Lord de Mauley, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Resource Management, the Local Environment and Environmental Science, said: "Across the country, people are cutting the amount of waste going to landfill by recycling more.
"More still needs to be done and we continue to push towards our aim of a zero waste economy."