A Letter from Nantwich

September 2006

Bin bugs

One of the bin bugs (arrowed) under the lip of a wheelie bin. Actually, the black circular object is the casing of the bug (or microchip), which is much smaller and inside it.  

I'LL bet the waste recycling department at Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council are wishing they had been more upfront about the "bugs" that are an integral part of the wheelie bins at present blossoming in backyards throughout the borough.

   They believe they have been open about the Big Brother devices - the size of a 2p piece - or so they are now saying, but if that is the case why are so many residents incensed about the news which broke in the national Sunday papers at the end of last month, and was later taken up by the local press? The Letters to the Editors pages have been full of comments on the bugs.

   "Taking things too far", "A gross invasion of privacy", "We are very angry", were just some of the reported comments.

   Not that Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council is alone in this. They are apparently "one of a handful" of local authorities (hence the national coverage) to use the bugs, with more to follow.

   The problem is that residents feel that the bugs are a precursor to charging for anything deemed as excess waste disposal on top of the amount charged for the service in the council rates.

   Plans for such a charge is denied by the council, saying it would lead to fly tipping and claims that the excess rubbish was not put there by the householder.

   Quoted in one newspaper, a spokesman said the bug (sorry, microchip) showed the weight of the bin and the address of the householder but not what sort of rubbish was in it. But another paper had the same spokesman saying the address was not held in the chip, just a bin identification number.

   The chips are said to have been mentioned in board reports of the council, but I wonder how many people read those? And it is claimed that people with a brown (garden refuse) bin have known about the bugs for a while. (They are not planted in the black, general bins, the contents of which are taken to landfill sites). 

   Some householders feel that more devious neighbours, who are not into waste recycling, might be tempted to dispose of waste in the "wrong" bins - that is, putting waste in bins which they are not intended for. Then the conscientious householder would be blamed.

   I can't see that anyone would put "proper" waste in the recycling bin (grey), paper bin (green) or garden bin (brown) belonging to someone else - and it wouldn't be the end of the world if they did. (Unless it caused the lid of the bin to be sticking up; an offence which means the bin would not be emptied). But why would they when they have bins of their own?

   But with excess non-recyclable waste in their overflowing black bins, some might dispose of that in the grey, green or brown bins of other people. (Ditto the above overfilling problem).

   I have been concerned about people disposing of illegal items as they walk past my bin(s) that I have put out for the binmen and me being accused of doing it. Not that I am aware of anyone dropping used drug needles, weapons, porn tapes and the like in wheelie bins left on the street. But that unlikely scenario apart, someone could throw away the "wrong" type of waste in my grey bin, say, (using it as a street waste bin) while walking past it. Who would be in trouble then? 

   Some people have been taking the bug off their bins - one is reported to have burned the whole bin -and either returning them to the borough council or leaving them in the offices of the local newspapers. Leaving themselves open for a charge of criminal damage, I would have thought. The council has asked people not to remove the chips, saying the bins are paid for by council taxpayers.

   One of the first tales that went around (later denied, as I said) was that the council would know if recyclable waste was disposed of in the black (non-recyclable) bins. Having provided colour-coded bins, you can understand the council being miffed if residents don't play ball. They are under pressure to recycle a certain percentage of waste by a particular year (sorry to be vague).

   Maybe the bin bugs don't know the address of the householder, but does no-one have a combined list of bin identification numbers and house numbers? My bins have my house number in plastic letters on them - a much easier way of doing it. Other people paint the house number on their bins, all in the interest of getting their own bin back after the refuse collectors have been round.

   I don't know what the bugs cost, but the plastic letters cost me just a few pence. Maybe it would have been cheaper and caused a lot less hassle to issue householders with the appropriate numbers. Perhaps the council felt some people wouldn't put them on, or - worse still - take them off! Not that the harder task of removing the bugs daunted some people.

   I am totally in favour of recycling what materials can be recycled, so I think it is a great shame that there is so much bother over the operation.

   But there are other niggles . . .

lSome plastics cannot be recycled. Funny, I thought plastic was plastic - it all comes from the same source, crude oil, doesn't it? So why doesn't it all melt down to the same product for reusing?

lGlass, for the moment, has to go to recycling centres. Not that I seem to use that much.

lTin foil is not acceptable (I recall my father religiously collecting tin foil and taking it to a lady in Crewe), although I believe some charity shops may accept it.

lSome people - who meticulously keep their wheelie bins spotless - get annoyed when the refuse men leave them dirty, presumably contamination from the refuse collecting vehicle.

lYou cannot leave the bins on the street before the designated day (following a warning from the fire service about bin fires) and have to get up earlier than you might like to in order catch the teams arriving at around 7am. Can't they alter the arrival time occasionally so that we all get a lie-in in turn?    

lEither people don't recycle newspapers (many people don't buy newspapers; shame!) or the council underestimated how many we would put out. The five-weekly collection cycle has now been changed to every six weeks. That means I shall have to take any excess to one of the recycling centres.


   It will be interesting to see how the situation is resolved.

lI have removed the picture that used to be here, showing plastics that I thought could not be recycled (being the "wrong kind of plastic"), because I found the recycling mark on some of them. Apologies to all concerned.  

lSee also this letter.

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