Bin Brother is not watching you, say council

Scottish Border green waste wheelie bin
Scottish Border green waste wheelie bin

Residents have been reassured that there are no plans to activate the microchips which are fitted to all 53,000 of the region’s general waste wheelie bins.

And that assurance has been reissued this week by Scottish Borders Council after a national newspaper claimed again that households faced being “spied on” by councils in a bid to force them to recycle more rubbish.

Scottish Borders Council is one of four local authorities in Scotland to issue the receptacles which have the capability of measuring the weight of discarded waste.

The other authorities investing in the bins were Orkney, Aberdeenshire and Clackmannanshire.

Together they provided 47,000 similar wheelie bins.

The national news story was run this week under the headline “Rise of the big brother rubbish bins”.

It contains quotes claiming the “secret” initiative is a breach of civil liberties.

The Big Brother Watch group says its 2010 survey found 68 UK authorities with the technology at their disposal with chips in 2.6 million bins.

Councils say the chips simply identify to which house a bin belongs and may be used to offer incentives - not fines.

But in fact, Scottish Borders Council had purchased the bins with the special devices back in 2005.

At that time the wheelie bin programme, including new green containers for garden waste, was being rolled out across the region, culminating in Berwickshire in March, 2006.

At that time it was revealed that the bins had cost 50p more than the standard receptacles and quoted an SBC spokesperson as follows: “We made this decision based on an awareness that national government policy could change and that the public could, in future, be charged according to the amount of waste they generate for collection.”

We also reported that the hidden bugs could only be activated when bins were hitched onto special lifting gear at the rear of refuse lorries – and none of the council’s fleet was fitted with the necessary equipment.

Nine years on and the situation has not changed.

“The bins were cheaper to purchase with pre-installed microchips than it was to fit them retrospectively,” said a spokesperson yesterday.

“The micro-chipped bins have never been activated and are not monitored and there are no plans at the moment to do so.”