Reward households who recycle with lower council tax bills using 'smart bins', says think tank

13 May 2019

'Smart bins' fitted with waste sensors could reward households who recycle with lower council tax, according to a think tank.

The bins would record household recycling rates and allow councils to save money from better-planned rubbish collection routes.

The savings could then be passed on to residents who send the least waste to landfill.

The recommendation comes in a new report from think tank the Social Market Foundation (SMF) which examines how new technologies could provide more efficient delivery of public services.

The SMF says that a rebate would incentivise households to recycle more and waste less – driving up recycling rates across the country.

UK councils such as Rugby and Wandsworth are already using sensor technology that monitors and reports bin fill-levels in litter bins. Some smart bins automatically compress waste, reducing the frequency of collections.

With bins only emptied when full, the SMF says this has resulted in significant financial savings. The SMF says that using similar technology in the home could also deliver significant savings and encourage recycling.

Scott Corfe, chief economist at the SMF, says: “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. At the moment there are huge differences in recycling rates across the country, ranging from close to two thirds in East Riding of Yorkshire to a paltry 14% in the London Borough of Newham.

“To get households on board with the green agenda, it is important that carrots are used, as well as the occasional stick. A council tax rebate for households that do their bit for the environment, by not producing as much as waste, would be a good reward for doing the right thing.”

Some councils have reduced the frequency of domestic waste collections to encourage households to recycle more. 

Technology that allows the more efficient use of bins, coupled with financial incentives, could be a more effective tool, the SMF suggests.

The think tank has a number of other ideas that could save money, including smart street lighting which activates when people and vehicles are nearby, reducing light pollution and energy usage.

Parking space vacancy sensors could help guide individuals to available car parking spaces, while road repair drones would identify potholes and repair these by spraying asphalt.


In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Having a laugh? My Council increased council tax by 12% this year, have introduced a £52 charge for collecting garden waste using a Company that has failed miserably in North Hertfordshire, and a myriad of additional charges at the local tip for non-household waste. Stop pretending the bureaucrats really want to recycle and focus the Think Tank on unspoken objectives like new stealth taxes.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I've been recycling for years. Up until recently. I've partitioned for our street-level recycling bins to be removed. The council didn't listen so I threatened to have them removed myself.Because the bins are accessible to residents and public, people were putting anything in them that they liked which the council classed as 'contaminated', the recycling collection crews would not empty them because they were contaminated and the general refuse crews would not empty them because they are recycling bins. So the Catch-22 begins. I had to ring the council to have them emptied at least once per week which was getting ignored.People kept putting more and more rubbish in them and leaving bags on the floor which was attracting vermin. The only way to stop the problem was to have them removed.I hate hate hate not recycling but if it means cleaner streets, then I'm so glad I had them removed.

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I only put my bins out when they are full, I squash or tear up items in recycle bin to get maximum in, when I became a 1 person household I had my landfill bin exchanged for the smaller one, the bigger one used for 9 months and still not full when collected.I see so many bins overflowing as residents are too lazy to to squash plastic bottles and tear cardboard boxes up, bin is half full of wasted space. We need a system where we pay for what we dump, let the lazy pay more and refuse to empty bin if lid not closed properly and then charge a fine to get them emptied. Fly tipping should carry very high fines for the smallest amount, fines should start at £10K and any vehicle used confiscated, the money could be used to pay for clearance where it is dumped on private land. I would allow land owners to shoot anyone caught in the act.

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