Page last updated at 17:48 GMT, Thursday, 31 July 2008 18:48 UK

Council accused of bin 'spying'

Recycling box
The council said the survey helped it improve recycling

A council has been accused of breaching privacy after it admitted trawling through bins without permission.

Islington Council said it investigated rubbish collected from 1,000 houses on 53 roads between 2004 and 2005.

The council said the survey helped them improve recycling and "led directly" to the introduction of its one-box system.

High Court judges, a Lord and London mayor Boris Johnson are among residents on the roads surveyed by the council in November 2004 and August 2005.

Critics said the survey was "intrusion" and a "civil liberties issue".

A spokesman for the council said: "No permission was sought from the residents as none is required.

"The properties were selected in advance at random and the waste collected was mixed together prior to delivery to a licensed waste facility for sorting and weighing by Islington's agents.


It's extremely arrogant... They should be engaging the public rather than spying on them

Emily Thornberry, Labour MP for Islington South

"The operatives involved in the sorting were waste professionals acting under a strict code of conduct which included the possibility of finding items of a personal nature such as confidential paperwork," he added.

Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury Emily Thornberry described the council's move as "absolutely outrageous and completely unjustified".

She added: "They said they didn't need permission. It's extremely arrogant.

"I'm concerned about the intrusion into people's private lives. It's a civil liberties issue.

"They should be engaging the public rather than spying on them."

Defending the council's action Greg Foxsmith, the Liberal Democrats executive member for the environment, said the process cannot be called "snooping".

"This was an investigation into the types of rubbish being collected generally to see what type of material is being sent to landfill and how much more of it could be recycled.

"Again, rubbish is not looked at individually or records taken or kept of what relates to an individual address.

"Confidentiality is taken very seriously."

The investigation "led directly" to the introduction of one-box to recycle plastic and cardboard, he said.

The council said it was in compliance with law which stated that waste collected is the council's property until it is disposed.




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