Innovation and Efficiency

13.05.19

Introduce ‘smart bins’ and hand out tax cuts to drive up recycling, urges think tank

Local authorities should use a new generation of “smart bins” and council tax cuts to drive up household recycling rates, a think tank’s new report has recommended.

Bins fitted with sensors could record household recycling rates, cutting councils’ costs using better-planned rubbish collection routes and then passing these savings onto residents with the highest recycling rates.

The new report, published by the Social Market Foundation (SMF), looks at how new technologies can be used to provide better, more efficient delivery of public services.

Some local authorities do already use sensor technology to monitor and report on bin ‘fill levels’, with Rugby and Wandsworth councils using it for public litter bins which are only emptied when full, resulting in “significant financial savings.”

The think tank has recommended that similar technology should be used inside homes in order to incentivise increased recycling using a new council tax rebate.

The report explores the possible benefits of a number of other new technologies in local government, including smart street lighting which activates when people and vehicles are nearby, reducing light pollution and energy use.

Road repair drones could be used to identify potholes and repair them by spraying asphalt, and parking space vacancy sensors could help guide drivers to available parking spaces.

In the report, the SMF argues that a new council tax cut should be introduced for households that produce less waste, which could be measured with the rollout of electronic smart bins, and therefore encouraging less waste and more recycling.

The think tank said a “carrot not sticks” approach to technology and waste is needed, and that “to get households on board with the green agenda it is important that carrots are used” as a good reward for doing the right thing.

Analysis also points to a huge variety in household recycling rates across the country, with just 14.1% of household waste in Newham being recycled compared to 64.5% of waste at the highest authority, the East Riding of Yorkshire Council.

 SMF’s chief economist, Scott Corfe, said: “Quite rightly, there is growing concern about the environment and the amount of waste produced by UK households.

“Local government needs to explore how new technologies – including smart bins – can dramatically drive up recycling rates and reduce waste.

“Critically, we need to ensure that all parts of the UK are doing their bit to reduce the amount of waste going into landfill.”

Image credit - LordRunar

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