Azara Blog: UK councils starting to put electronic chips in rubbish bins

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Date published: 2006/08/27

The BBC says:

Chips in bins which help councils charge for the weight of rubbish collected could be common across the UK within two years.

Three local councils are about to trial the chipped bins.

The Local Government Association (LGA) said weighing schemes will be commonplace if the pilots are a success and endorsed by government.

A think tank has urged a "pay as you throw" system as the only way to improve the UK's recycling record.

Figures from the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) show the UK recycled or composted only 18% of waste in 2003-04.

The IPPR says the UK has one of the worst recycling rates in Europe, with only Greece and Portugal doing worse.

Mr Bettison, chairman of the LGA's environment board, said charging to collect non-recyclable rubbish would give people " a real carrot to recycle".

"Some people say 'what's in it for me?' Well, let's make it in their interest to recycle by helping them. In that way, we're encouraging them to recycle more," he said.

The chips would carry information about which address the bin belonged to.

The weight of rubbish in each bin would be measured by equipment installed in collection trucks.
...
The LGA has warned council tax bills will have to rise if councils have to pay big EU fines because of poor recycling rates.

Councils faced fines of up to £150 per tonne of rubbish if they failed to meet targets under the EU landfill directive.

IPPR director Nick Pearce said that for the new system to be fair, rubbish collection would have to be removed from the council tax.

"The government should give local authorities powers to charge for collecting non-recyclable waste," he said.

"Our European neighbours have shown that where charges are commonplace, recycling rates will rise."

Charging rubbish collection by weight makes some theoretical sense. Only it should not just be for non-recycled rubbish, it should be for all rubbish. Of course the rate could be different for different classes of waste. (In Cambridge we have two large bins and two small bins, and one of the small bins is for glass and cans and paper, so there is plenty of opportunity for differentiation.) Unfortunately the EU elite (as typified by the IPPR) have decided that recycled waste is somehow holy and should be encouraged, and all other waste is somehow evil and should be discouraged. This is just plain wrong. There is an environmental cost to all waste, and the charge for collecting it should exactly reflect that environmental (and collection) cost. In Cambridge there is a special recycling round just for plastic bottles, and that consumes a huge amount of petrol. The bottles then get shipped to China for "recycling". The net "benefit" to the environment is almost certainly negative.

On a more practical side, charging for waste in this way will have some negative consequences. In Cambridge the bin men are so hopeless about putting bins back where they have picked them up that it would be easy for neighbouring bins to be swapped, and then you are paying for your neighbour's waste and vice versa. (Well, these days most people have realised that this is a problem so paint their house number on their bins.) And in some buildings waste is collected for multiple households in one place. You can just imagine the nasty arguments which will occur.

And expect more litter to be strewn here and there, because some people would rather just dump their waste rather than pay for someone to pick it up. Already in one of the side streets off Histon Road in Cambridge someone has been regularly dumping a black sack full of rubbish on the pavement. (Yes, the person responsible must have very particular circumstances, because rubbish is currently picked up for free.) Currently it is no great effort for one of the residents to pick up the bag and stick it in their own bin. If rubbish is charged for you can pretty much guarantee that would not happen.

This is a perfect example of extremely bad EU legislation being foisted on the UK.

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