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UK gov to moot electronic tagging of dustbins

At least they don't whine about privacy and freedom...

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Not content with tagging people, the UK government is proposing to move swiftly on to trash. According to a story in this week's Sunday Times, a "clean neighbourhoods" bill to be introduced this autumn will include provision for local councils to charge householders by how green their household refuse is, and to charge them for unsorted waste.

And how do you finger the recalcitrant citizenry who persist in just slinging it all in the bin rather than diligently sorting it? Well, says the Times, you put an electronic tag on the bin, and a reader on the dustcart. The dustcart itself is a smart one, capable of figuring out what kind of junk you've been junking (glass, tins, AOL CDs, nuclear waste and so on), so it can swiftly tally up the tab and the bill can be sent to the perp.

Obviously you end up paying a more realistic cost for the disposal of the shedloads of crap you generate, and this realistic cost will no doubt include the vast expense of operative-proof hi-tech equipment in the dustcart.

It's not entirely clear to us that this whizzo technology will actually see the light of day in the proposed bill, but the paper quotes leaked cabinet documents as saying there will be a move to allow councils to charge for the pickup of unsorted waste, and we can therefore see a certain logic to the associated introduction of systems to detect and to measure this waste. It will however be left to councils to decide whether to begin to charge for unsorted waste, although recent legislation already requires them to move towards sorting waste. Under the Household Waste Recycling Act 2003 English authorities need to be collecting at least two types of recyclable waste by the end of 2010, and a report on progress is due in October.

But exquisitely, the proposals for incentive-based sorting, possibly including tagging, themselves appear to have been recycled. As indeed is, er, a quantity of the Sunday Times story. The Environment Agency has been pushing for a greater commitment to recycling for some time now, and the tagging plans first saw the light of day on the publication of a Downing Street strategy unit report, Waste Not Want Not, in 2002. At the time the Sunday Times said: "At the heart of the proposals is the notion that householders are paying far too little for disposal and that if people are made to pay more then they will consider recycling instead. Current charges, included in the council tax, average less than £1 a week per household."

While two years later it says: "...local authorities argue that householders are paying far too little for rubbish disposal. If people are made to pay more for such a service then they will consider recycling. Current charges, included in the council tax, average less than £1 per household."

We applaud the paper's commitment to recycling, and in the same spirit propose to pay for next week's edition with the same £1.40 we spent on it this week. ®

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