Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What Rubbish: Councils Monitor Your Trash With RFID

Residents in NSW's Randwick Council received a lovely gift recently - fancy new bins for their rubbish and recycling. 78,000 of them, in fact.

No it wasn't a misguided attempt to swing votes by lavishing gifts on the electorate. It was a way of introducing RFID tags onto the bins so that the council and their waste management contractor could spy monitor the amount of rubbish and recycling being done throughout the area.

Randwick isn't the only council using the technology - Ryde council introduced RFID tags on their bins back in 2006.

The trucks that collect the rubbish weigh the bins as they empty them, and then use the bin's RFID chip to monitor the households waste and recycling quantities.

Despite fears that the councils will use this information to raise waste management fees and spy on residents, they claim that "bin weight data will help identify average bin weights by type and suburb. This information will also be used to develop waste education material." They also say that only the councils themselves and their waste management contractor have access to the data.

Potentially, this is a great use for RFID technology if it results in increased recycling and less household waste. But is it possible for a government agency not to use all that detailed information for evil? We'll just have to wait and see whether prices go up for waste management in these new tech-savvy councils.

smh Jano Gibson, 14 April 2008

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