Belfast Telegraph

Big bin brother: microchips monitoring NI waste

By Linda Stewart

Stay alert when you ditch that pizza box — your bin could be bugged, say privacy campaigners. Big Brother Watch said that 68 local authorities have secreted microchips in residents’ bins to monitor waste habits, affecting at least 2.6m British homes.

Among those named are Belfast City Council and Antrim Borough Council.

The group said a poll last year revealed that eight out of 10 people opposed the scheme.

The report claimed Antrim Borough Council has fitted hardware to its refuse vehicles as part of a five-year contract hire arrangement with vehicle suppliers, at a cost of £38,000 and affecting 11,200 households.

Meanwhile, Belfast City Council has spent £27,612 on monitoring recycling rates and contamination of bins through chips, the report said. These affect 125,000 households.

Alex Deane of Big Brother Watch said: “Councils are waiting until the public aren’t watching to begin surveillance on our waste habits.”

The penny-sized chips in the lid of the bin contain information identifying the household and can be scanned as waste is tipped into the lorry.

Belfast City Council said microchipping had started seven years and was no secret.

“We have information about bin-chipping on our website and we have also carried several articles explaining their use in our free City Matters magazine, which is delivered to every household. Ratepayers can also call our Wasteline with any questions or concerns on 0800 032 8100,” said a spokeswoman.

“All the microchip data we hold is protected and only authorised staff can look at it.”

She added: “They allow our staff to check that your bin contains the right materials, as well as helping us to trace the bin if it is lost or stolen.”

Antrim Borough Council said about 1,500 properties had their bins fitted with microchips.

“Before the chipping took place, all residents were informed and had the opportunity to object. If an objection was received the bin wasn't chipped.” The spokeswoman added that the borough only monitors data in rubbish from commercial customers.

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