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Council uses RFID to go through residents' garbage

A Sydney local council has begun utilise RFID technology to measure the effectiveness of its waste management program, but without telling its residents their bins — and their contents — are being tracked
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Written by Marcus Browne on

A Sydney local council has begun to use RFID technology to keep an eye on its garbage collections, but without telling its residents their bins — and their contents — are being tracked.

It has been revealed that Randwick City Council has fitted each of its 78,000 residential bins with an RFID device, after the Sydney Morning Herald reported today the discovery by one resident of an RFID tag attached to his bin.

Credit: Randwick City Council

The council replaced all of its garbage and recycling bins last month, but did not tell residents their bins had been fitted with track-and-trace technology.

"We didn't mention anything specific about the RFID, it was just considered an operational part of the change," said a spokesperson for Randwick City Council today. "The information being collected in relation to these tags is protected under the council's privacy policy and only to be used for waste management strategies."

"There were a number of other more immediate things to deal with when bin collection times were being changed," said the spokesperson.

The council chose to fit the bins with a device capable of collecting data about the time a bin was collected and the weight of its contents as part of an initiative to improve its waste management strategy and assist in compliance with its disposal contractor WSN Environmental Solutions, which also supplies RFID-equipped bins to Ryde City Council — another large Sydney local government area.

A spokesperson for WSN told ZDNet.com.au today that what the councils do with the data collected from the devices is their business, but the technology is also there to "ensure bins are collected on time".

According to Randwick City Council's spokesperson, residents' response to the initiative has been positive so far, and the "only individual whose done anything is the guy who contacted the Herald."

The spokesperson said the council needed to reconsider its waste management strategy as Randwick is home to — or borders on — a number of areas with large numbers of itinerant residents, such as students at the University of New South Wales, and those visiting backpacker hub, Coogee, where garbage collection and management has proven to be a problem.

"Those areas have proven to be a challenge when it comes to waste management, we want to use the data collected from the RFID [devices] to get a better understanding of what's going on there and develop an information campaign to assist those residents," said the spokesperson.

"Ultimately it's about making things more efficient so that we can direct waste away from landfills."

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