Some days ago, I found myself on the Belfast Shitty Council website. And a little phrase on one page jumped out.
Most of our recycling boxes and bins are fitted with a special chip, known as a Radio Frequency Identification Device.
These chips allow us to:
* know if you need help to sort out your materials
* trace your box or bin if it is lost or stolen
* find out if we are meeting waste targets set by the government.
The information collected is matched to the number of your house and covers the weight, when and how often your bin is collected.
If the chip is removed or damaged, it is possible that your bin wonâ€™t be lifted.
Blimey, thought I, who the fuck do they think they are to suggest that they’ll not carry out the service I’m forced to pay them to carry out because I’m considering removing a spy tag from my bin?
So I got a little involved with WhatDoTheyKnow.com, and enquired of the Shitty Council a) when the decision was taken to implement this policy and b) what legal grounds exist for said policy.
The stated reasons for the policy are to be found in council minutes from 2003, down on page 70-something.
To test the effectiveness of the trials and assess compliance with the targets it will be necessary to accurately record and monitor weight data of the recyclables collected in the areas where the twin bin system is introduced. Weight-data from individual households will need to be analysed in order to ensure that the maximum weight/quantity of recyclable materials is being collected and to ensure that participation rates are good. Arising from the weight data, publicity and awareness campaigns can also be targeted more effectively into areas where there are static or falling levels of participation.
Which brings up some more issues, which I may pursue in later FoI requests:
- If that information is needed to test the effectiveness of the trial (which was funded in 2003-04), why would it still be necessary to collect now?
- Collection rates/maximum weights/etc are all meaningless unless you can see what’s in the bin, and what’s in the black bin as well. I do so hope that the council don’t think they’ll be getting that information as well.
- The whole twin-bin thing was set aside a couple of years ago when the council changed to a fortnightly collection; so what happened to the trial?
- What data is held, how anonymous is it, and for how long is it held?
b) was touched on in the body of the first email response:
You will note that there is no reference to legislation, byelaws or policy regarding the collection of bins without chips. The reason for the statement you refer to, is that the technology on the back of the recycling lorry will prevent a blue bin been lifted useless it recognises the chip on the bin. This helps us reduce the possibility of contamination. As we wish to increase the amount of waste recycled in Belfast we make every effort to ensure that all bins are collected. However, it should be noted that the blue bin remains the property of the Council unlike the black/grey landfill bin which belongs to the householder, therefore, the council would request that the bin remains in the condition it was supplied. If your bin is damaged we will happily replace it.
- Why would a chip prevent contamination? It can’t tell what’s in the bin, so it can’t actually do anything more than tell if the truck is lifting a blue bin. Which end could also be achieved by … only putting blue bins on the damn truck.
- Property of the council, eh? And where is it that the council gets its money from?
- If the blue bin belongs to the council (and the council doesn’t grant my claim that what’s theirs is partly mine), then I’d feel bad about using it. So I’d have to put all my stuff in the black bin, what with it being mine (I know it’s mine, I distinctly remember having to pay for it). So they can take their recycling targets, and shove them up their arse. Sideways.
Oh well. It would appear that they’re not going to get weights of my recyclables. Because there’ll either be no chip in my blue bin, or no recyclables…