Recommended by UK-based think tank the Social Market Foundation, smart bins could be used to show the amount of recycled waste a house disposes

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A new generation of smart bins could reward households with council tax cuts for recycling their waste, says a UK think tank.

The recommendation comes as part of the Social Market Foundation’s (SMF) new Tech in the Town study, which examines new technologies that could provide a better and more efficient delivery of public services.

The report is the third in a series from the group looking at the benefits and challenges associated with the fourth industrial revolution, including the rise of robotics, big data, artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles.

The SMF’s chief economist and author of the report Scott Corfe said: “Quite rightly, there is growing concern about the environment and the amount of waste produced by UK households.

“Local government needs to explore how new technologies – including smart bins – can dramatically drive up recycling rates and reduce waste.

“Critically, we need to ensure that all parts of the UK are doing their bit to reduce the amount of waste going into landfill.”

The think tank suggests that bins should be fitted with waste sensors that could record each household’s recycling rates.

This would allow councils to save money from better planned rubbish collection routes, passing on any savings to residents who send the least amount of waste to landfill.


How smart bins could change the recycling disparity in the UK

Analysis from the SMF report shows a huge disparity in household recycling rates across the UK.

Smart bins UK
The Smart Marketing Foundation analysed the amount of recycling each borough in the UK conducted (Credit: SMF)


While 64.5% of household waste was recycled, reused or composted in the East Riding of Yorkshire in 2017/18, this figure was only 14.1% in the London borough of Newham.

Mr Corfe added: “To get households on board with the green agenda, it is important that carrots are used, as well as the occasional stick.

“A council tax rebate for households that do their bit for the environment, by not producing as much waste, would be a good reward for doing the right thing.”


Where smart bins have been used in the UK

A similar system was introduced in the Warwickshire town of Rugby in July 2018 through its solar-powered “Big Belly” street bin.

These use sensors to monitor the amount of litter going into a bin, triggering a compactor when required and sends an email and text message to the council when nearly full.

Speaking at the time it was introduced, Rugby Borough Council portfolio holder for the sustainable environment Lisa Parker said: “The Big Belly bins deliver benefits to both the town centre and the council.

“The bins can help keep the town centre clean and green, while the technology inside the bin can save the council money.

“The compactor increases the capacity of the bin while the sensors mean we only have to empty the bins after receiving an email alert, allowing us to stop routine daily collections and target our resources more efficiently.”