Lifting the Lid: Number of councils installing chips in bins rises by 62 per cent

Research conducted by Big Brother Watch reveals that there are now 68 local authorities secreting microchips in the bins of residents, up from 42 a year earlier

Top lines from the research (the full report with a complete breakdown of local authorities with bin microchips is available here) include:

  • 68 local authorities in Britain and Northern Ireland have installed microchips in the rubbish bins of at least 2.6 million households.
  • A previous FOI survey from March 2009 found that 42 local authorities had installed microchips in their residents’ bins, which equates to a 62 per cent rise in just 12 months.
  • Bristol in the only local council in Britain to agree to pilot one of the Government’s "pay-as-you-throw" schemes in the twelve months that they have been on offer, but several local councils are quietly installing the infrastructure with which to monitor our waste habits, ready for a political and public climate that is more amenable to bin microchips.

Research conducted by Big Brother Watch has revealed that 68 local councils in Britain have placed microchips in the bins of at least 2.6 million households. When a similar study was conducted 12 months ago, only 42 councils admitted to having placed microchips in their residents’ rubbish bins. Only one local authority has yet come forward to pilot one the Government’s “pay-as-you-throw” schemes in the year that they have been on offer, which strongly suggests that councils are preparing the technology at significant cost, ready for when the government announces a nationwide roll-out of charging for what the British public throw away.   

Lifting the Lid analyses the privacy implications and cost to householders of installing a network of bin microchips, before providing a definitive list of those local authorities that have installed the intrusive technology.

Alex Deane, Director of Big Brother Watch, said:

“The number of local councils placing microchips in bins is increasing, despite the fact that only one of them has volunteered to trial the Government’s ‘pay-as-you-throw’ scheme.

Councils are waiting until the public aren’t watching to begin surveillance on our waste habits, intruding into people’s private lives and introducing punitive taxes on what we throw away.

The British public doesn’t want this technology, these fines or this intrusion. If local authorities have no intention to monitor our waste then they should end the surreptitious installation of these bin microchips.”

To read the full report, which includes detailed information on every local authority, please click here.

Posted by on Mar 4, 2010 in Privacy | 23 Comments


  1. Purlieu
    5th March 2010

    Without some quite sophisticated and expensive detection sensors, the best these things can do is weight the bin.
    Which is odd because the things that cause most environmental damage are designed to be as light as possible in the first place i.e. packaging

  2. Hugh Walter
    5th March 2010

    Surely by issueing vouchers, rather than the feared future issueing of fines, they are already charging us…They would not run a service at a loss, therefore, the Bean-counters having done their job, they are charging the ‘Majority’ for carrying on as normal, rather than the feared future charging of the ‘Minority’ for failing to recycle.
    Either way they are charging someone, and either way it is an example of the Totalitarianization of our society by the back door. When I was based in Berlin during the Cold War, we soldiers laughed – along with our officers – at the way the East German Vopo’s (Volkspolizei) used timing to issue traffic fines on the measured section of the motorway between Berlin and W. Germany, we laughed with a poignancy at the tragi-comic Orwellian aspect of such a ridiculous act against the citizenry, and took it as an example of totalitarianism!
    Now we ourselves have Average-speed cameras, to go along with Mobile and static Gatso’s, Number plate cameras, Tax-disc regognition cameras, all-weather infrared cameras etc…etc…We have become worse than those we were willing to fight and die to protect ourselves from…..?
    The man who said on BBC breakfast just now, about the iminent arrival of his ‘smart’ blue-bin “If it has a chip, sobeit” sums up the main problem with life today, a largely complacent middle-class, relatively untouched by the resession, and happy for the ruling/political class to do what it likes, so long as the 4×4 and ‘wifes runabout’ can have their tanks filled twice a week…god help us all!

  3. Frank Lee
    5th March 2010

    Sorry if this is a daft question but if the council installed a microchip without my permission, why the hell wouldn’t I go go out with a hammer and smash it?
    Batter it with a hammer or a brick, Pour hot salt water to try to short it out or find someone on the street who can knock up a small EMP generator from a old capacitor and zap everyone’s bins in one go?
    Seems simple to me.
    One of the first police CCTV camera installations was in a pub in Hartleepool. a customer came in, saw it and asked the publican what it was ‘about’ the barman replied it was nothing to do with him. Customer then goes to police station and is told the same. Customer goes back to pub with toolkit dismounts camera and takes it directly to pawnshop and back to pub to buy drinks all round with cash. . .
    If the authority’s want to go all covert with this stuff they can’t be surprised if folk object in physical terms.

  4. Sandra Semple
    5th March 2010

    Could someone make the point somewhere that chipping bins does NOT result in less landfill. All that happens is that householders dispose of their extra rubbish by other means – dumping it at supermarkets, in general rubbish bins or in other people’s bins! There is no net reduction in rubbish!!!!!

  5. Hypernation
    5th March 2010

    Wouldn’t an integrated system of waste management actually be a good thing? Is there evidence that we are going to be charged for waste disposal?
    At the very least to quantify our waste seems a logical step in the development of a society that at the very least measures its waste for the purposes of management and so on.
    Tin foil hat wearers – please don’t flame me with NWO rubbish.

  6. Jamie Dawlish
    5th March 2010

    I have a 30 litre kitchen bin which gets emptied every 5 weeks or more. I’d love to pay for that alone, and not for everyone else’s rubbish.
    Paying for what we throw away is a great idea but how do they know whose rubbish is in my bin? All the bins get left by the house at the end of the terrace on a Thursday night. The real problem is the amount of non-recyclable stuff in packaging. If the government could lean on the corporations instead of the population they might get more done!

  7. Gary C
    5th March 2010

    I moved to the UK from Ireland last year. We’ve had our bins chipped for about 8 years – We pay by weight. One bin for recycling (which is not weighed) and the other for general waste. If you create more waste and don’t recycle then you should pay more, I don’t understand why this is a problem over here.

  8. Seb
    5th March 2010

    bring it on I say.
    There are deeper intrusions to my privacy everywhere than the council just weighing my bin.
    Reducing rubbish will only work if mindless non-use of recycling facilities hits people where it hurts most: in the wallet.
    We all pay for rubbish disposal in our council tax and if that part of it can be distributed more according to use then all the better.
    Fly-tipping and sneakily putting stuff in other people’s bins are issues that need resolving but the current system is no solution. I want a utility bill for my rubbish like for the ‘leccy.

  9. Mark Garrett
    5th March 2010

    The report is sadly flawed, the chips are not capable of monitoring anything, they identify the bin and that is all. Many householders put a house number on the bin they have.
    The only data collected is the weight of a bin and the collection lorry can do this without a chip. Your credit cards and nectar card are a better way of tracking your life style habits as if anyone could be bothered.

  10. Sandy Glover
    5th March 2010

    Don’t tell anyone, but almost all bins have an identification number printed on them. This can be read with a cheap, simple phone-quality digital camera mounted on the bin lift and activated automatically. Put in a number-recognition app, and the bin is identified, at a fraction of the price of chip-based systems.
    Chipping is irrelevant (or would be if Councils were actually competent).

  11. Reason
    5th March 2010

    Mark Garrett 03/05/2010 at 11:50 AM:
    “Your credit cards and nectar card are a better way of tracking your life style habits”
    Yes, but I can choose NOT to use a credit card or nectar card.
    This is being done WITHOUT my consent.

  12. Bucko
    5th March 2010

    I doubt any pay per throw system would result in a drastic reduction of council tax. Anything we are forced to pay for waste disposal will surely be on top of that.
    They are more than welcome to come and chip my bin. A lot goes on in my back yard and it may well get damaged…..

  13. PeckhamWry
    5th March 2010

    Microchips in bins aren’t a privacy issue.
    If they are, people should also be complaining that gas and electricity companies use computers to measure how much energy they use. Even better, phone companies’ computers know which numbers we call, when and how often – how’s that for an invasion of privacy? What exactly are people putting in their bins to make them so afraid?!
    This campaign is about Big Brother Watch jumping lazily on the anti-green bandwagon which the Daily Express and The Daily Mail started rolling some time ago.

  14. ERM
    5th March 2010

    When they start microchipping my bin & snooping around its contents that will be the time when I will start fly tipping & burning my rubbish in the back garden. The local Council already has delusions of Stasi Adequacy with their ‘bins must be n position by 7:00m’ which will then be collected at 2:00pm – and the fact that they will not accept recyclng items unless it’s in the bin with the lid closed.

  15. mike Robs
    5th March 2010

    Why isn’t there a picture of one of these chips on the site so we know what we are looking for?
    Is it possible that these chips can be ‘accidentally’ damaged?

  16. Andy
    6th March 2010

    I will ‘tazer’ mine.

  17. Henry Crun
    7th March 2010

    I don’t see what all the fuss is about to be honest. It’s time we, the British public, started to stand up for ourselves and started saying “NO!”.
    Town councils, local government and national government have lost sight over who it is they work for. If we start kicking back on their nonsensical policies and chatges, then the sooner they will learn that they cannot ride roughshod over us.
    I currently do not have a chipped bin. If our local council did chip the bins, I would remove it and send it back to them with a terse letter. If they chipped it a second time, I will remove it a gain and return it to the waste of space officer personally. The third time it will be zapped with an electro-magnet.

  18. Mrs. B. Illstone
    7th March 2010

    I do not mind paying for the rubbish I put in my black bin, but I would not like to have to pay for any put in by a passer-by along my road. How would the council know that I had actually put the rubbish in my own bin? Perhaps we could have a code of our own choice to use to open the lid of our own bin included with the chip?

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  21. Billy Bob
    8th August 2010

    Doesn’t the chip just identify the owner of the bin, so the weight can be logged against your name?
    Doesn’t your bin already have your house number written on the outside in white paint? Isn’t it already normally found in your garden, or outside your house, thus indicating that it belongs to you?
    Say what you like about pay-as-you-throw, but don’t make this scarier than it really is by playing the sci-fi card (Covert microchip implantation is very ‘X Files’!)
    If it was a guy with a clipboard and a biro, plus and set of weigh scales that was logging the data, would you all still be so upset?

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