Bin workers could strike for a further four weeks as a council says it will accept recycling mixed with general waste.
The pay dispute in the Canterbury district, which saw staff down their tools over a month ago, could now drag on until September.
A councillor has this week claimed the local authority has failed to clearly communicate what kind of waste can be placed outside homes.
But a Canterbury City Council spokesman says it has “made the position clear” on its messaging, to help residents manage their rubbish during the deadlock.
Recycling bins are not being emptied throughout the city, Whitstable and Herne Bay, with the materials now allowed to go in black bins.
Meanwhile, thousands of extra trips a week to household recycling centres have been tallied since industrial action by the GMB union began on July 5.
Figures obtained by KentOnline show that on average in the month since strikes began, residents across the district visited recycling centres 2,300 more times a week than they did in the month before.
Union bosses say the action could go on for at least another four weeks and believe the public will blame the council for the situation rather than the workers.
“Even those who can take their rubbish to the tip, will not want to do it long term and will no doubt run out of patience with the council quickest,” said GMB organiser Frank Macklin.
“The latest strike notice issued to Canenco takes us up to the 10 September 2023.
“Given the fact that the striking refuse workers are as strong as they were on the first day of action, I believe that they will continue taking further action as Canenco and Canterbury City Council continue being silent.”
Although members of one union, Unison, accepted a pay rise of 8.9% for loaders and 7.3% for drivers, the GMB union refused the proposal, arguing they want to be paid the same as what refuse workers already make in Dover, Folkestone, Ashford and Swale.
The local authority says work to resolve the dispute is ongoing “behind the scenes” but did not respond when asked if a new pay offer would be formally extended.
Meanwhile, households appear to be taking matters into their own hands, with far more trips to the tip recorded in weeks since the standoff began.
Figures from Kent County Council show that during the week before the strikes, residents made a total of 5,181 visits to the Canterbury tip in Vauxhall Road and the Herne Bay facility on Westbrook Lane.
Three weeks later, that figure had risen to 7,751, representing an increase of almost 50%.
While there is no indication that recycling centres are struggling to deal with the increased traffic, concerns have been raised about insufficient communication from the council about which bins are still being collected.
Opposition councillor Dan Watkins says the pavements of streets in his Herne Bay ward have been blocked with recycling bins even though the council has posted online that such bins are not currently being collected.
“People are just putting them out all the time because they don’t know what’s going on and they think there might be a chance they’re collected,” said the Tory.
“I think the council’s communication about this online has been okay, but only a tiny fraction of residents subscribe to the newsletter or follow the Facebook page, so the messaging isn’t reaching enough people.
“They need to do something else now - this could drag on for many more weeks.”
Cllr Watkins has seen recycling bins left hopefully on the pavement day after day on Pier Avenue and Clarence Street.
Other residents in Herne Bay have noted the problem on Station Road, while a Canterbury resident also observed paper and plastics overflowing from bins on Whitstable Road.
Cllr Watkins suggested the local authority should send out paper notices to houses on streets where residents are apparently unaware that recycling is not being collected.
But when asked if the council was considering a change in communication strategy, press officer Rob Davies, reiterated the various ways the local government was already trying to get the message across.
"As well as giving the information to the Gazette, KentOnline and other media outlets to share with their audiences, we've made the position clear with a huge banner on our website, social media posts, emails to residents signed up to email newsletters and updates sent to parish chairs and clerks,” said Mr Davies.
"Our staff who answer the phones are fully briefed and we have also asked councillors to pass on the message to their residents.
"But for the avoidance of doubt, we are happy to repeat the message that recycling bins are not being emptied and these materials can either go in black bins, be stored until the strike is over or taken to the household waste recycling centres."