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Measuring How Much Your Household Recycles

By: James Murray-White - Updated: 1 Mar 2013 | comments*Discuss
Recycling Wheelie Bins Recycle

Recycling the objects and materials we use on a daily basis is now such an urgent task that Governments, Local Councils and concerned individuals are all searching for ways to both inspire people to recycle, and to enforce recycling laws.

Recycling is so urgent because we as a human community living in an over-populated world, with diminishing resources, are running out of land in which to dig holes to bury our rubbish. Incinerating rubbish isn't really a good option: the fumes emitted are noxious and toxic enough to kill and create serious illness, as well as the damage to our planet, and the contribution to climate change. Some options available to us are described below.

An American Case Study: RFID-Based Recycling

RFID-based Recycling - technology in wheelie bins. Americans use about 650 tons of paper each per year, and as a nation get through around 2.5 million plastic bottles every hour. With such a huge Country, the problem of how to recycle and how to enforce recycling upon individuals across so many States is also huge, but some politicians, scientists and environmentalists know it is a problem that must be addressed.

An electrical engineering company, Cascade Engineering, based in Philadelphia, has pioneered electrical devices that fit into household wheelie bins and weigh the amount put into it, i.e. the amount of material either as rubbish, or as recyclable material. These devices, known as RFID's (Radio Frequency Identification), send the information back to a central computer, where they are added to each householders details or 'account', and stored. This information is then used to assess how much trash and recyclable goods each householder produces annually, and the Local Authority can then punish or reward them accordingly. Rewards include shopping vouchers for food, gas and entertainment. The biggest reward has been to the environment: this scheme, with its incentive of vouchers, has seen recycling rates in the area rise from 5 to 50% within a year.

A UK Case Study: Chipped Bins and Council Pressure

The same sort of wheelie bins are now being tested in the UK, with several Local Councils testing them out in small parts of their areas. The UK is under pressure from EU guidelines on recycling, and the Government passes this on to Local Councils to impose targets and meet them. In the UK, information about the top recycling Councils and the worst recycling Councils is widely publicized, and offending Councils use bigger chunks of their gross budget to come up with schemes to try to improve their figures.

The trial schemes came in last year, and results haven't yet been publicized. It is known that instead of a reward scheme, based on the American model, Councils here have emphasized punishment of offenders – those who regularly add little or nothing to their personal (and personalized) recycling wheelie bins. The emphasis in Britain is very different from that of the US: it is based on austerity, and publicizing the dire reality of a world swamped with trash. Recycling initiatives are more widespread throughout the UK – contact with green initiatives in Europe gives inspiration (with Germany, Sweden and other Nordic Countries leading the green initiative), and perhaps the British population is already more educated and motivated about this issue than the Americans.

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