There was a story in Computerworld a couple of weeks ago about RFID tags attached to residential recycling bins in a county in South Carolina boosting the amount of plastics, paper and glass being recycled.
The tags on the bins are read by an RFID reader inside the recycling trucks and the information is collected over a wireless link. A pilot project allowed officials to track the recycling from 5,000 homes. Those that had not put out recycling bins for three months received postcards urging them to join the programme and recycle. The result was a 117% increase in recycling.
The pilot will apparently be expanded to another 5,000 homes in October before being rolled out to all 110,000 homes in the county in the next 12 to 18 months.
This is not the first such pilot and RFID is increasingly being used in various ways to help recycling. There has, though, been some resistance by households, with the RFID tags seen as another form of snooping on individuals. But the data obtained can be used in a variety of ways to both encourage recycling and helping the authorities maximise the efficiency of, and benefits from, recycling.
RFID tags can also be used in other ways to promote recycling, for instance by using them to return and reuse packaging – tags that can withstand several trips have been developed for just this purpose.
Unfortunately, in the UK bin tags have been more associated with various plans to weigh non-recycled rubbish at the collection point in order to allow the possibility of charging householders by weight. Some bins are fitted with the tags but the principle of charging by weight has fallen into disrepute, given the various implications – an increase in fly tipping for example. (As someone who lives in a rural area, its something we already suffer from).