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Council Proposes See-Through Bin Bags to Encourage Recycling

Detritus of Human Existence

Black bin bags could be replaced with transparent bags in Cardiff, so it would be possible to see whether people are throwing away waste that could be recycled.

A Council Waste Awareness Team would check the bags, and knock on the door of people not recycling their goods properly. Persistent “offenders” would be fined. Even without checks, the hope is that clear bags would make people think twice about what they throw away. If the scheme goes ahead, it will be a UK first.

According to Councillor Ashley Govier, Cardiff Council’s cabinet member for environment, recycling levels in Cardiff have plateaued at 52%. The Welsh Government has set a target of recycling 58% of waste by 2015. Govier says more needs to be done to tackle those “who are not recycling because, quite frankly, they cannot be bothered”.

But this has raised concerns over privacy, and the possibility that it could aid identity theft. Critics have questioned whether Cardiff really needs council “busybodies” to check people’s rubbish.

In England, a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) consultation recommended that bin fines should be thrown on the scrap heap. Environment Secretary Caroline Spleman said that, “Honest, hard-working people have been punished for innocent mistakes with heavy-handed bin fines for far too long… We want to see people helping us to boost recycling rates by putting out their rubbish correctly, but bullying them with fines is not the way to do it.”

However, the proposed changes only apply to England, and further councils, including Croydon and North Somerset, have introduced compulsory recycling schemes since the recommendations were made. Monmouthshire Council put forward plans for a similar scheme, but abandoned it after local opposition.

Green Party representatives have criticised bin fines, arguing that the real problem lies with all the packaging that makes recycling necessary.

The transparent bin bags and possible fines are among a range of changes to waste management. A litter enforcement team in the city centre will educate litterbugs and hand out on the spot fines of £80 from August. A recent crackdown on litter resulted in more than £1000 in fines in a day, with Twitter used to post about the campaign.

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