A number of councils previously entertained the idea of putting microchips in rubbish bins in order to create a pay-as-you-throw system of rubbish collection. After a substantial public outcry this was largely disbanded although not before a substantial amount of taxpayers’ money was expended purchasing chipped bins.
Considering this, it is surprising to hear that Newcastle University have come up with a new idea to install cameras into rubbish bins. The system, nicknamed ‘BinCam’, takes a picture every time rubbish is deposited and uploads it to a social networking site. The pictures can then be viewed by neighbours or friends, allowing them to comment on the recycling habits of the householder. The system has received widespread condemnation from all areas of the political spectrum, including environmentalists.
Anja Thieme, a researcher from the university, said:
“There is a naming and shaming element to the experiment although it's fun rather than humiliating. Waste has a massive environmental impact. By taking a photograph and uploading it to Facebook, the idea is that we create a platform for self-reflection, a permanent reminder.”
“It's a bit like having your conscience sat on your shoulder niggling away at you. And on top of that you know that other people are also judging you.”
Daniel Hamilton, Director of Big Brother Watch, had this to say on the matter:
“This sounds like an elaborate joke – except it isn’t. It beggars belief to think that people could be photographed and placed on US-style 'most wanted' lists for putting rubbish in the wrong bin. Encouraging recycling is fine but publically humiliating those who choose not to is outrageous.”
“Have Newcastle dons really got nothing better to do than waste their time and our tax money on preposterous ideas like this? They put microchips in the bins ready for pay-as-you-throw bin taxes, and that died a death. I hope councils realise that this sinister idea is taking things too far.”
The dons at Newcastle University may think this is “a bit of fun” but really it is a ludicrous idea which will never get public support. People may throw away confidential documents which will end up on the internet, and it may encourage more fly tipping to avoid the intended ‘judging’ of neighbours. The simplest way to encourage recycling is by making it easier to do, not by humiliating people or charging punitive fines. The Government’s forthcoming waste review will hopefully attempt to restore weekly refuse collection and abolish ‘waste reduction’ schemes which use a variety of measures to punish people for any infringement of the complicated waste schemes in certain councils.