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Bin technology binned

PUBLISHED: 16:36 19 June 2008 | UPDATED: 07:28 01 August 2010

SOUTH Norfolk Dsitrict Council, the first in Britain to install microchips in bins to find out how much people were recycling, is scrapping the system because the technology used was rubbish.

SOUTH Norfolk Dsitrict Council, the first in Britain to install microchips in bins to find out how much people were recycling, is scrapping the system because the technology used was rubbish.

Under the scheme 50,000 bins and 12 lorries were fitted with the technology allowing them to weigh the amount of waste thrown out by residents, who had the right to request details on the amounts they were producing.

The Tory-run council ordered the switch-off of the microchip technology because it was beset with technological problems and bin rounds were being held up.

Up to a thousand bin lifts a day were recorded, but a combination of electrical, data, mechanical and hydraulic faults meant the system had to be repeatedly turned-off so the bin round could be completed.

The administration also feared it could serve as a Trojan horse for a pay as you throw bin tax after the government announced that five councils would be asked to trial the idea next year.

Last night Defra said the authority had not been asked to install the system and the funding was also used to target hard to reach groups and explore public opinion on financial incentives and charges for waste management.

But council leader John Fuller said the five-year trial identified serious shortcomings including inconsistent and unreliable weighing data, computer problems, electrical and equipment failures and delays to the daily bin rounds.

“Any chip-in-bin system would have to accurately record the weight of every bin, every week, without mistakes, for a whole year,” he said. “But the system simply didn't work reliably enough.

“A system that sounded good on paper in London failed to work at 7.30am on a cold and wet Monday in December in South Norfolk. It was time to bin the technology.”

He said that staff persevered in trying to resolve data problems, spending hundreds of hours contacting the software firm, the weighing system supplier and the bin supplier.

And in a political nod to events in Westminster he claimed the results now called into question the new pay-as-you-throw pilot schemes planned by the Government.

“We pay our bin men to collect the refuse and recycling, not to act as Government tax collectors,” he added. “Chip-in-bin is now proven to be another failed Government IT project that puts another hole in the database state.”

A Defra spokeswoman said the switch off decision was a matter for the council and dismissed the bin tax claims.

“Ultimately it is for local authorities to make decisions about the best waste and recycling schemes for their area, based on local needs,” she said.

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