One has to wonder if George Orwell recycled. It is well past the year 1984 but neither Orwell or Brave New World author Aldus Huxley could have predicted that by 2013 the prying eyes of governments and corporations would be honing in on your rubbish bin.
The rubbish bin seems like an object that has reached its ultimate utility; it’s a bin with a lid, it usually has wheels; you put your trash in it and once a week you wheel it out to the street so it can be emptied. Well if trends in the US are any indication of things to come the basic rubbish bin may be getting a high-tech upgrade. Utility companies in a number of US cities have already rolled out high-tech recycling bins equipped with RFID tags that indicate where a bin is located and whether it is being picked up when it should be.
And you thought the bin men were the only nosy people you had to worry about; as they’re peeking through your week’s discards, because your life and therefore your trash is surely much more interesting than everyone else on the bin man’s route, the waste disposal utilities will soon be able to tell if your bin was used on any given week, and if so what time and where it was picked up.
Recycle Your Recyclables, or Suffer the Consequences
These bins are being used in what’s being billed as “incentive-based recycling programs”. Basically this means that RFID-tagged bins will report whether a household is using its recycle bin and leverage punishment such as fines or mandatory education on recycling against those who aren’t.
Wait, that doesn’t sound too bad. I mean it’s not like it keeps track of what you’re throwing out (at least not yet), so what’s the harm? Some say that it is an invasion of privacy, but you should be recycling in the first place and if you are then there is no need to worry, and if you aren’t, well, it’s time to start.
All things considered, the intrusion into the private world of one’s personal recycling habits is meager compared to the benefits of increased participation in recycling programs. “If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear”, so the totalitarian adage goes, though in this case it seems more appropriate to say “If you recycle your can, you need not fear the man.”
So long as developments in the implementation of these new high-tech bins don’t go further, as it stands, this doesn’t seem to be a privacy battle worth fighting.
Big Brother Wants You to Recycle (and So Does Everyone Else on Earth)
Those who do not recycle aren’t just lazy, they show no regard for the environment and think they are above the standards of society. In short, people who don’t recycle are inconsiderate and any technological development that might lead to folks not being so is welcome. Let’s be honest, the all-seeing eye of Big Brother has already encroached on our lives in so many ways; there should be no qualms about using technology to help our environment and reduce waste. The implementation of these new smart-bins in the US seems to be concentrated in Florida, where 66 cities will begin using them this year. This is excellent news as Florida is a state whose rich ecology is continually threatened by pollution and a large population. Florida is also arguably the inconsiderate capital of the US, if not the world at large, so hopefully those who weren’t recyclers previously will take advantage of the new mixed-recycling programs and save a couple trees while there at it.