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Smart bins ‘could be used to encourage recycling’


Mark Say Managing Editor

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Smart bins provide the capacity for a new approach to funding waste collection and encouraging recycling, according to thinktank the Social Market Foundation (SMF).

Its research director Scott Corfe pointed to the possibilities as part of his presentation to UKAuthority’s Smart Places, Smart People conference. He said the issue has been highlighted in a recently published report from the thinktank, Tech in the Town, which says that bins fitted with sensors could provide the basis for “recycling revolution”.

There is a steady increase in the use of bin sensors around the UK, with local authorities such as Hull and Glasgow trialling the technology.

Speaking at the conference, Corfe said there are several elements to the possibilities.

“In terms of bins in public spaces you can see a number of councils using the ‘big belly’ smart bin that automatically compresses rubbish to ensure they need emptying much less frequently when they are full up,” he said. “And there is the potential to roll out this technology into household waste collection.

“You could also see it paving the way for different charging models for household waste collection, charging per bin or kilogram of waste. But there are political challenges in that.

“And the final frontier is with bins that could separate recyclables from non-recyclables. There is a company called Bin.E that has developed an early model of this type of technology, to automatically identify things like bottles that can be recycled.”

Recycling incentives

He said the technology could be used to promote recycling, linking their data to possible incentives such as council tax rebates.

“It’s very important if you want to get the public onboard to show these new charging regimes are done with tangible benefits in mind rather than as a new tax,” he said. “It’s carrots rather than sticks.”

Corfe added that any initiatives would have to include proper controls of data collection and take into account the concerns from some of the public over prying by the authorities.

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