'Bin Brother' set for Suffolk?
HALF of councils in Suffolk already have wheelie bins fitted with microchips and plan to monitor recycling rates, it has emerged.While local authorities do not yet have the power to charge households that throw away too much, some councils are proposing to use the technology to pinpoint streets not recycling as well as their neighbours.
HALF of councils in Suffolk already have wheelie bins fitted with microchips and plan to monitor recycling rates, it has emerged.
While local authorities do not yet have the power to charge households that throw away too much, some councils are proposing to use the technology to pinpoint streets not recycling as well as their neighbours.
It comes as they seek to avoid swingeing fines in 2010 for failing to reach a 40 per cent recycling target for household waste imposed by the European Union.
The Local Government Association will also be publishing a report later this year calling for councils to be given the option of introducing a “pay as you throw” scheme in which households are charged according to the amount of landfill waste they produce.
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Thousands of bins in the county have the devices but they have not been activated and the councils have insisted there are no plans for charging.
Most of them are fitted only to recycling bins, so the local authorities would not be able to gather data on the amount of rubbish thrown out to landfill.
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The councils said the chips were installed in the manufacturing stage and claimed it is a cheaper alternative to later fitting the bins with the technology in the event of government legislation changing.
Around 25,000 blue bins used for recycling in the Forest Heath district have the microchips.
A council spokeswoman said: “We have them installed but we are not using them yet due to technical problems.
“The reason why we had them installed is that it was cheaper to put them in the blue bins when we ordered them.
“It is purely to work out how much is being recycled. If, for example, one street has a lot more in their blue bins then another then we would go to the second street and target them with recycling messages.
“We are aware of the 'pay as you throw' idea but we have no plans.”
All of the bins in the Mid Suffolk area, comprised of around 37-38,000 households, have been fitted with chips.
But Paul Lewis, waste and environmental services manager at the council, said the “tags” were not measuring devices.
Instead, he said they were an electronic way of identifying a wheelie bin with a “scannable” number, which is recorded to each property.
He said: “Should the Government seek to change the legislation to enable charging for waste collection, then it would be possible to use the tags to allow suitable technology attached to collection vehicles, to weigh and record weight of collection.
“This is no different to having a water, electricity, gas meter recording consumption leading to a bill to the end-user.”
A spokeswoman for St Edmundsbury Borough Council said: “All of our blue bins for dry recyclables were already chipped when they were supplied to us by the manufacturer.
“Some of our brown composting bins are also chipped and all of our new bins come with chips in them.
“We are not using the information we get from the chips at the moment, but in the future the chips could help us measure participation in our recycling schemes and then assess where it would be best to use our resources.”
She added: “We have no plans to introduce a charge by weight scheme as we are fully aware of the potential problems such an activity could cause.”
Defiant householders in Waveney tampered with the microchips, prompting the council to warn them they could pay a high price.
With it costing £1 to fit a device in a new bin and £4 to replace them, widespread tampering could leave the council facing a bill of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
It has introduced 100,000 new blue and green bins containing the microchips.
A spokesman said yesterday the technology was not switched on and added it would consult fully with the public before any monitoring takes place.
Babergh, Ipswich and Suffolk Coastal councils do not currently have microchips in bins.