Page last updated at 07:55 GMT, Friday, 5 March 2010

Warning of rise in microchips in council bins


Members of the public voice their opinions on 'chip and bin'

Privacy campaigners claim increasing numbers of councils are gearing up for "pay as you throw" rubbish charges by installing microchips in wheelie bins.

The Big Brother Watch group says its survey found 68 UK authorities with the technology at their disposal - up from 42 last year - with chips in 2.6m bins.

Councils say the chips simply identify to which house a bin belongs and may be used to offer incentives - not fines.

A voluntary scheme is being set up in Bristol to reward people who cut waste.

The city council has applied to the government to become the first to trial a scheme which would pay residents according to how much they reduce refuse not sent for recycling.


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However, campaigners say other authorities could use the technology to pile charges onto those who throw away the most - often those with large families.

"If local authorities have no intention to monitor our waste then they should end the surreptitious installation of these bin microchips," said Big Brother Watch director Alex Deane.

The group's report, Lifting the Lid, follows a a series of requests under the Freedom of Information Act to identify councils using the microchips.

"Councils are waiting until the public aren't watching to begin surveillance on our waste habits, intruding into people's private lives and introducing punitive taxes on what we throw away," said Mr Deane.


His campaign is funded by the Taxpayers' Alliance, which lobbies for lower taxes and greater government efficiency.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair first raised the prospect of councils charging extra to those households putting out the most waste in 2007.

However, it met fierce public and political opposition. When the government said in 2008 it would allow up to five authorities to pilot the scheme, none applied.

'Behavioural change'

Shadow local government secretary Caroline Spelman said "bin taxes" would harm the environment by encouraging "fly-tipping and backyard burning".

"We do not oppose schemes where residents willingly opt-in to a scheme which rewards them for recycling," she said.

Windsor and Maidenhead rewards people with local shopping vouchers for increasing the amount they recycle.

Microchips do not mean councils can analyse what people are throwing away or issue fines
Local Government Association

Borough councillor Liam Maxwell said penalties did not work.

"Incentives and helping people make the right decision of whether to put some recycling in their landfill bin, or in their recycling bin, is where we're making the behavioural change for this."

A spokesman for the Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs said it was up to councils - not the government - whether they used microchips.

"Microchips do not monitor what goes into the bin and this is not about 'spying' on people or fining them," he said.

"Britain cannot keep on sending waste to landfill, and it is important that councils work with communities to reduce waste, reuse it where possible, and recycle more."

And Corinne Thomson, of the Local Government Association, which represents councils in England and Wales, said: "What microchips allow councils to do is reduce the cost of collecting the bins and, ultimately, keep Council Tax down."

She said the technology helped councils to establish whether people are recycling and offer incentives to do so.

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