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Should the council spend an extra £300,000 on adding microchips to bins? (See full story on this page)

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Chip and bin: Recycling boon or spying on your rubbish?

CHIP and bin could be on the way to Wigtownshire and it's not without controversy. Dumfries and Galloway Council will this week consider fitting microchips to 150,000 wheelie bins being wheeled out for its new waste collection service. Councillors will be asked if the new bins should be fitted with Radio Frequency Identification Chips at an additional cost of £300,000. A report says this would allow each bin to be registered to a property and, when lifted and scanned, the weight and material type could be recorded. The system has been used elsewhere to help gather recycling rate information – the report says 'with limited success' – but they have also been branded 'bin spies'. Critics say they could be a precursor to 'pay as you throw' schemes where rather than paying a flat rate, you pay per weight of waste or number of uplifts. In 2015, other councils added microchips to bins. Eben Wilson, director of TaxpayerScotland, said then: 'First the NHS collects our personal data and releases it to all kinds of organisations; now data about our lives and how we live them will be taken from our bins. 'Someone needs to get a grip on this state intrusion and protect us. Councils have become Big Brothers, forcing us to recycle as part of their green crusade. 'Meanwhile, taxpayers face huge bills to pay for hidden surveillance that none of us have agreed to.' Zero Waste Scotland have been consulted by Dumfries and Galloway Council and they say the chips are a good investment and council officials have laid out likely costs. They say: 'The costs are likely to be between £1-£2 per bin in addition to the standard unit cost of £16-£18/bin. With 150,000 bins and a lifespan of 15-20 years at £2/bin this equates to a lifetime annual cost of £15-20k.' The microchip idea is being considered as part of wider plans for waste collection across the region costing more than £23m. It comes after the waste scheme piloted in Wigtownshire proved an expensive flop. The plan had been to roll out the 'Wigtownshire model' across the whole region. But boxes for recycling proved deeply unpopular, often blowing away overnight, scattering the contents. And food waste collected in caddies involved manual emptying that risked injury to workers. Further, the specialist vehicles used for food were difficult to clean and councillors were told crews had to climb inside the waste compartment to scrape out scraps. In preparation for the roll-out across the entire region, thousands of bins were purchased. When the expansion was scrapped, the bins cost more taxpayers' money simply to store. Attempts by the Free Press to find out where they were being kept and how much they were costing were frustrated by bureaucratic obstruction. Further taxpayers' money was spent on a deal to run the Eco Deco recycling plant in Dumfries. This has been designed in such a way that all households had one bin and the plant sorted the recyclables. A change in legislation forced a move to multiple bins and the council and the private firm running the Eco Deco plant parted ways. It took a BBC Freedom of Information request - initially rejected by the council, but approved on appeal - to confirm the council paid out almost £6.9m for the termination of the 25-year Private Finance Initiative (PFI) waste deal. Councillors themselves eventually demanded a report into the costs of the entire waste management structure in a bid to get facts on the total bill. The new system will involve three full-sized wheelie bins for most households and is likely to be test-bedded in Wigtownshire in the autumn with full roll-out across the region in spring next year. Many questions about the bins remain unanswered, including how people in terraced homes will cope and what provision there is for people with disabilities. The Scottish Government is pioneering a cash deposit scheme on single-use containers and it is thought this will slash the amount of glass put out for kerbside recycling. Instead people will be asked to take glass to local depots and so the old recycling boxes are likely to be left in people's houses for glass storage.

<< back Published: 22 Jun 2020, 11:03

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