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Thinktank report calls for more smart bins

13/05/19

Parliamentary Correspondent

Fitting all household bins with sensors that measure when they are full would save local councils money through better planned collections, according to a newly published report.

Litter bin with sensor

The smart bins would also allow authorities to reward households that recycle the most with lower council tax bills, says the Tech in the Town report from the Social Market Foundation (SMF) thinktank.

It points to the way sensor technology that monitors and reports bin fill-levels is already used by some councils such as Rugby in Warwickshire and Wandsworth in south London. But they have only used it for litter bins on streets and other public places – while making significant financial savings by only emptying them when full.

Some smart bins also automatically compress waste, further reducing the frequency of collections. And they are being developed to automatically separate recyclable and unrecyclable waste, helping to reduce the amount of rubbish going to landfill.

Increase recycling

Scott Corfe, the SMF’s chief economist and the report’s author, said: “Local government needs to explore how new technologies – including smart bins – can dramatically drive up recycling rates and reduce waste.

“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.

Many councils have reduced the frequency of domestic waste collections to encourage households to recycle more, which has drawn strong criticism from some residents.

As an alternative, technology that enables the more efficient use of bins, coupled with financial incentives, could be a more effective tool, the SMF argues.

Big differences

The report also points to huge differences in household recycling rates, from 64.5% of waste reused or composted in the East Riding of Yorkshire in 2017-18, to just 14.1% in the London Borough of Newham. And it highlights other applications of fourth industrial revolution (4IR) technologies in local government, including:

  • Smart street lighting – which activates when people and vehicles are nearby, reducing light pollution and energy usage.

  • Parking space vacancy sensors – which help guide individuals to available car parking spaces.

  • Road repair drones – which identify potholes and repair these by spraying asphalt.

Image from Enevo

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