Reward household recycling with smart bin use

The Social Market Foundation has claimed that a new generation of smart bins could allow households who recycle to be rewarded with council tax cuts.

The think tank says that bins fitted with waste sensors could record household recycling rates, allow councils to save money from better-planned rubbish collection routes and then pass on the savings to residents who send the least waste to landfill.

The prospect of financial rewards for using smart technology might also boost acceptance, the think-tank said, suggesting a ‘carrots not sticks’ approach to technology and waste.  

Part of a new report on the use of ‘tech in the town’, which examines the best way to win popular consent for new technologies that could provide better, more efficient delivery of public services, the foundation suggested that using similar technology in the home could deliver significant benefits too, and encourage households to recycle more.

Sensor technology that monitors and reports bin ‘fill-levels’ is already in use in some councils such as Rugby and Wandsworth, who have used it for litter bins on streets and other public places. With bins only emptied when full, this has resulted in significant financial savings.

Other applications of 4IR technologies in local government that the report recommends include smart street lighting, which activates when people and vehicles are nearby, reducing light pollution and energy usage, and road repair drones, which identify potholes and repair these by spraying asphalt.

Scott Corfe, chief economist at the Social Market Foundation, said: “Quite rightly, there is growing concern about the environment and the amount of waste produced by UK households. Local government needs to explore how new technologies – including smart bins – can dramatically drive up recycling rates and reduce waste.

“Critically, we need to ensure that all parts of the UK are doing their bit to reduce the amount of waste going into landfill. At the moment there are huge differences in recycling rates across the country, ranging from close to two thirds in East Riding of Yorkshire to a paltry 14 per cent in the London Borough of Newham. To get households on board with the green agenda, it is important that carrots are used, as well as the occasional stick. A Council Tax rebate for households that do their bit for the environment, by not producing as much as waste, would be a good reward for doing the right thing.”