Nanny Government Monitors Household Trash Bins in U.K.

The other day, I wrote about a nanny state law to ban restaurants from offering toys with meals deemed too unhealthy by the government in Santa Clara County, California. Here is another entry in the Nanny State Files from across the pond, where local governments in the U.K. are installing microchips in household garbage bins to monitor how much garbage people throw away (and, many fear, to eventually use to impose fines on those who throw away “too much” or recycle “too little,” however the government masters may define those terms). So we go from California waist watchers to British waste watchers.

A report on the trash snooping from advocacy group Big Brother Watch, which fights to protect personal privacy and liberties, revealed the following key findings.

  • 68 local authorities in Britain and Northern Ireland have installed microchips in the rubbish bins of at least 2.6 million households.
  • A previous [Freedom of Information] 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.
  • Only one local council in Britain has agreed 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.

“This is yet another piece of surveillance that the councils are taking on in our daily life,” said Campaign Director Dylan Sharpe in an interview for an Associated Press article on the topic. “With this information they can tell if we are home or not, and the information is stored on their database, which is not that secure.”

Moreover, Sharpe noted, imposing fines based on trash volume might lead to other negative consequences, such as people burning their garbage or dumping it illegally to avoid the fines.

“That’s what’s happened in Ireland, where they’ve tried this,” he said. “Over the last 10 years we’ve seen a massive increase in CCTV [closed circuit television monitoring systems], and the introduction of laws allowing police to search at random. There has been a general trend in this country toward gathering as much data as possible.”

In addition, as the AP article reports,

The government’s ambitious information-gathering plans go still further. Security officials working on counterterrorism plans have lobbied for greater powers to track every e-mail, text, and phone call made in the U.K. The country already maintains an extensive DNA database that is, per capita, the largest in the world.

Sadly, that trend has not been restricted to the U.K., as evidenced, to cite but one example, by the National Security Agency’s illegal surveillance of Americans’ international e-mail messages and phone calls without obtaining warrants. Big Brother certainly is watching. We will need more individuals and organizations like Big Brother Watch to beat back the tide of ever-increasing government intrusion into our private lives and freedoms.