Big Brother is watching your can!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Usually, when businesses "go green", at least the particular assaults on freedom they're trying to "exploit" for good publicity damage themselves the most. But here's an example from Down Under of a business employing slick new technology to make itself look concerned for Mother Earth -- technology which could easily be turned around to demolish a nice chunk of the individual freedom now enjoyed by private citizens.

Tucked away under the rim of wheelie bins found in two Sydney councils are small radio frequency tracking devices collecting information on a household's waste habits.

Randwick Mayor Bruce Notley-Smith told The World Today they are the way of the future.

"We will be able to find out the weights of the various bins and collect the data, the entire amount, as opposed to the quantity that is recyclable," he said.

The garbage truck reads the data on the bin, weighs the bin, and the data is collated on a computer.

"We've aimed to increase or target problem areas in the city where there's a lower level of recycling," Mr Notley-Smith said.

"The fact is that 50 per cent of the city of Randwick is multi-unit dwellings and we have faced a number of challenges there with getting compliance with recycling."

The data collected will allow the council to confirm which areas are recycling and which are not. [format edits, bold added]
The data are, so far, being kept between council officials and their contractors, but the predictable whining of green busybodies who want this turned into a tool for the enforcement of nonobjective law has already begun.

(I am unclear whether the term "council" here is being used to denote a unit of local government or an apartment complex or, if the latter, whether it is privately-run. The answer to that question has more to say about the status of freedom in Australia than the impropriety of the government monitoring garbage cans for compliance with recycling laws.)

It is bad enough that we're reaching the point where we can't toss out an aluminum can without facing the prospect of a fine. The end for which we face this prospect is even worse, however.

Recycling makes economic sense only when it costs less to recover the materials from waste than to obtain them from raw materials. For the kinds of materials most municipalities try to force us to recycle, doing so is a waste of time and effort. (And even if it weren't, the government has no business dictating how we spend our own time or dispose of our own property, so long as we violate the rights of nobody else in the process.)

Time is irreplaceable. To the extent that the government holds a gun to our heads and makes us recycle, it is effectively forcing us to send irreplaceable moments from our lives to the landfill in lieu of the junk that properly belongs there.

Who knew that high technology, low meddling, and widespread ignorance of the proper purpose of government could come together to make us discard time from our lives as if it were refuse?

-- CAV


Monica said...

They've been spying on people like this for some time in Britain -- I blogged this trash can spying long ago. When my BF lived in California, he got a big huge recycling bin and sawed it all up into tiny pieces and put it in the trash bin. HA!

Currently we don't recycle nor are we required to. We have a private trash pickup and that probably makes all the difference. I have never heard of anyone in the US being prosecuted for not recycling. In most places with a "public" trash service you are given recycling bins by the state, or you are forced to pay for them, I think. I know plenty of people that do not recycle, even under these conditions, and nothing happens to them. Let's hope that doesn't change here in the states.

Monica said...

Oh just one more thing about the RFID chips. While putting them on garbage cans is bad, there are far worse uses. The use of them that will probably come next in the US is not on our garbage cans but on our driver's licenses, thanks to RealID. The government will eventually be able to shut down your bank account and track your purchases and thus, your movements. They also plan to use it as a checkpoint system on our national highways (it's all there in the 9/11 report). Only three states oppose RealID on principle: the rest have simply asked for extensions due to lack of funding. It's so much easier to run a police state this way, don'cha know?

These chips are *already* being used to track farm animals under the government's "voluntary" National Animal Identification System. Most large scale farms have already agreed to this and currently in the system. Supposedly this is going to "reduce the risk from terrorism and disease." It is only small farmers that are resisting this intrusive government action.

And let's not forget that Andy Rooney said he'd consent to being embedded with one if it would make us safer from terrorism.

This is *all* very bad. The only use of the FRID chip I currently approve of, and the only one I know of to be entirely private: microchips for pets.

Monica said...

Just think! With an RFID chip in your driver's license AND an RFID chip on your garbage can, they do what they really want to do -- shut down your bank account if you don't pay a fine (since a RealID will be required to set up a bank account or to enter any federal building), or subtract it from your account automatically! YAY!

Gus Van Horn said...

The first mandatory recycling I ever encountered was when I lived in Connecticut for a year while in the Navy and I dodged that.

Now, in Texas, I do have a state-supplied bin, which I never use.

I have no plans to start recycling when I move to Boston, either.

The state will have to force me to do it, and I am sure it will try, barring some major cultural changes.

Anonymous said...

Yep, council means a unit of local government. They control the local roads, garbage, streetlights, footpaths, local building regs, and so on.

In my own city we now have three of those wheelie bins. Yellow-lid means man-made recyclables, green-lid means vegetation and the like, while red-lid means general garbage. Care to guess which is physically the smallest?

Incidentally, wheelie bins have been also used as disguised speed cameras before now. They're definitely modern tools of local-level big-brotherism.


Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for the clarification, JJM.

The bin configuration you describe would tempt me to litter or dump, but they probably already have surveillance camera in place to stop desperados like me.