A Letter from Nantwich

September 2006

 Getting bugged about "spies" in waste bins

 

 

 

 

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 felt 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 householderwould be blamed and the bin would not be emptied.

   You might wonder why anyone would put "proper" waste in the recycling bin (grey), paper bin (green) or garden bin (brown) belonging to someone else 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.

   Mostly waste bins are kept in peoples' back yards where they are presumably safe from being "contaminated" - but are they?

   On "bin days" the bins are put out on the street in front of houses to be emptied by the refuse teams. and I have heard of people complaining about their bins being used as litter bins as people walk past before the bins are taken back off the street. Indeed, it has happened to my bin(s). 

   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.

   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 teams 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.

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.

 

UPDATE (June 2017): What can and cannot be taken has changed since I wrote this Letter. Currently we are being told to "Leave it Loose" as regards the recycling bin. That is, don't put items in plastic bags to keep them together.

   That would be fine except that shredded paper (letters containing personal details) are, presumably, also included. I used to put shredded paper into plastic bags to keep it all together - easier to sort for one thing I would have thought - but I can do as I'm told if that's what the recycling firms want . . . !

See also this letter.

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