By Steve Doughty
Spy chips hidden in 2.5 MILLION dustbins: 60pc rise in electronic bugs as council snoopers plan pay-as-you-throw tax
The growing threat of a stealth tax on the rubbish we throw away was exposed by startling figures yesterday.
More than 2.5million homes now have wheelie bins fitted with microchips to weigh their contents.
This is an increase of nearly two-thirds in just a year. The bins, which can be electronically identified and weighed, are designed for ‘pay-as-you-throw’ rubbish tax schemes.
Under such schemes – which are likely to be hugely unpopular – families who put out more waste will pay higher taxes to their local council.
Disclosure of the rapid spread of chipped bins followed the announcement this week of the first council to bring in a bin tax. Bristol City is presenting its scheme as a reward for recyclers, with cash payments to homes that leave out less rubbish.
The spread of chipped bins marks the revival of a tax idea that the Government appeared to have abandoned last year.
Gordon Brown promised to ditch bin taxes in the spring of 2008, at a point when the unpopularity among voters of fortnightly collections, strict bin rules, and the threat of pay-as-you-throw was at its height.
In January last year, ministers acknowledged that not one council had applied to test pay-as-you-throw schemes.
But yesterday, research by the Big Brother Watch campaign group showed that the use of chipped bins has quietly spread over the past year.
In March 2009, a survey based on Freedom of Information inquiries showed there were 42 councils which used bins with microchips. But the latest check, also based on FOI requests, put the number of authorities with electronic bins at 68 – one in five of all those that collect household rubbish.
According to the responses from town halls, 2,629,052 homes have now been given bins with chips.
Alex Deane of Big Brother Watch, said: ‘The number of local councils placing microchips in bins is increasing, despite the fact that only one of them has volunteered to trial the Government’s pay-as-you-throw scheme.
‘Councils are waiting until the public aren’t watching to begin surveillance on our waste habits, intruding into people’s private lives and introducing punitive taxes on what we throw away. The British public doesn’t want this technology, these fines, or this intrusion.
‘If local authorities have no intention to monitor our waste then they should end the surreptitious installation of these bin microchips.’
The campaign group complained that the bins allow councils to examine household rubbish and sell the information to commercial concerns as well as to impose taxes.
Using a microchip to identify a bin means that technology on a dustcart can then weigh it and the information can be used to prepare a tax bill.
‘The Government have already forced through bin tax laws and have been funding the bin technology to collect the taxes.’
In 2008 nearly 100 councils ran investigations into the contents of their residents’ bins, in some cases to check on what rubbish they dump and in others to try to obtain information on their incomes and lifestyles.