High-Tech Recycling Bins to Police Cleveland Residents

Big Brother is about to take a dive into Cleveland, OH's waste material, in a manner of speaking. High-tech garbage bins will make sure that Clevelanders are recycling, at least some of the time.

The way it will work is as follows: the recycling and garbage bins will be fitted with RFID tags. If a recycling bin hasn't been taken out for weeks, the city will have someone go through your trash for recyclables.

It's unclear why garbage cans are monitored as well. Unless, if the garbage hasn't been put out for some weeks, they send out the police to make sure you're still alive, or at least not a candidate for one of those reality TV shows about hoarding.

Anyone concerned about privacy should remember those forensic shoes on TV (we are speaking about documentaries, such as "Forensic Files," not C.S.I. where it is possible to blow up the image of a retina so you can see what's reflected in it). Once it hits the curb in your trash, its a free for all, as anyone watching an episode of "Forensic Files" where they go through someone's trash for DNA evidence can attest.

What will happen if they find recyclables in a Cleveland resident's trash? Those whose trash carts contain more than 10 percent recyclable material could be subject to a $100 fine.

Other cities have opted for similar carts. There are also other types of high-tech carts in use, as well. Some cities in England have been using high-tech carts to make sure people are not exceeding their alloted weight limits for trash.

Still, this isn't an inexpensive move. The city council voted to move forward last Wednesday. It will cost $2.5 million for a 25,000 household expansion in 2011, which will build on an already existing 15,000 household pilot program that began in 2007. The city plans to incrementally expand by 25,000 a year until nearly all of the city is covered, and it's possible that older carts might be retrofitted with RFID tags, rather than replaced.

Expensive or not, it's a green move, and a green one for the city's coffers, not just the environment. Cleveland pays $30 a ton for garbage dumped into landfills, but earns $26 a ton for recyclables.