500,000 wheelie bins 'have a spy in the lid'

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of thousands of wheelie bins are being fitted with special microchips to monitor the amount of waste discarded by householders.

Councils say they are necessary to gather data about people's rubbish disposal habits and are also a vital tool in settling disputes over bin ownership. But experts are warning that these bugs, which transmit information to a central database, could be used to fine those who exceed limits on the amount of non-recyclable rubbish that they put out.

About 500,000 bins across England already carry the electronic devices which are slightly bigger than a one-pence piece and are screwed into a plastic recess in the lip of the wheelie bin. As the bin is lifted up for emptying by council workers, a sensor on the refuse truck scans the chip, which carries a serial number assigned to each property in the street. This then enables the monitoring equipment to identify the bin's address and record the weight of the rubbish that is in the bin.

According to The Mail on Sunday newspaper, a computer inside the truck weighs the bin as it is raised up, then subtracts the weight of the bin itself and records the weight of the contents on an electronic data card.

Once the truck returns to the depot, all information collected is downloaded onto a central computer. Householders can then be billed for the amount of waste that has been collected from them, even though they have already paid for rubbish collection services through their council tax.

The chip itself costs around £2 to make but the cost of fitting the equipment to a council dustcart is around £15,000.