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Cheshire East checking what's in your bin

21st July 2010 @ 9:09am – by Audlem Webteam
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Cheshire East, we are told by a national newspaper, is one of a number of councils using social profiling techniques to match types of rubbish to different ethnic groups and levels of income.

Officials and private contractors are examining the contents of families' bins, checking supermarket labels, waste food and discarded mail.

The exercise is part of a recycling initiative so councils can target households in different social categories with leafleting campaigns.

Critics have said the scheme is "highly intrusive" and a waste of money at a time when local authorities are being asked to cut spending. Details of the audits were disclosed following a request under Freedom of Information laws.

One commentator likened the intrusion to George Orwell's 1984 where "all private activities of citizens were ruthlessly monitored to ensure compliance with the state's dogma".

National guidance for the scheme suggested that all checks on bins should be done without the knowledge of the householders. "Ideally, you do not want to inform the public of an audit taking place, as this could alter their disposal behaviour," it said.

Officials deliberately chose neighbourhoods occupied by varied social and ethnic groups to see how they differed in the amount of rubbish they discarded. Cheshire East was highlighted in the report along with Leeds, Poole, Kensington and Chelsea and Swindon, all using some form of social profiling in their bin searches.

Fiona McEvoy, of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Councils shouldn't be paying contractors to rummage through resident's bins when there's huge pressure on their finances."

"Local authorities should abandon their fascination with what's inside our bins once and for all and concentrate on cutting the considerable fat within town halls."

(Update). Since this story appeared, the following statement has been received by a local resident from Cheshire East: "Cheshire East Council does not currently have a policy in place to monitor the use of recycling bins, using micro-chips.

"The former Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council did monitor the use of green waste bins but this ceased in 2008. Should the council decide to review the position, it will of course communicate its plans for any trials."


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