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Dutch 'Robot Bins' Require ID and Charge for Trash by Weight


"scheme [that] drives recycling"

(Image: The Register)

In a few Dutch cities, "smart" trash cans that require an ID to unlock are being rolled out in an effort to not only encourage recycling but to prevent theft of the containers as well.

The Register reports more than 6,000 of these "robot bins," which charge the user based on how much they throw away -- while recycling items goes free of charge -- are being installed in the hopes 1) locals don't use their own bins, 2) to prevent theft of bins, 3) to save the city money and 4) to reduce the carbon footprint.

In fact, the think tank Environmental Resources Management estimates the city of Groningen, which has installed the bins already, saved $116,042 and lowered its carbon footprint by 18 percent within the first year.

The Register reports that the bins by Mic-O-Data and Vodafone include an RFID reader that when tapped with a user's card, unlocks the bins. The trash cans also sense the level of fullness and send an alert to garbage collection when they're at capacity.

Here's a bit more on the reason The Register says some towns in the Netherlands are installing the bins, aside from environmental benefits:

Theft is down by more than 70 percent, apparently, locals having previously been nicking each other's bins with gay abandon, and the reduction has saved the council some serious money. Last year the council announced the chipped bins had helped it remove 3,500 containers from circulation, and billed 640 houses for the additional waste receptacles they were illegally using.

In charging for the weight of garbage, which The Register calls a "scheme [that] drives recycling," it speculates it could also lead to customers demanding manufacturers reduce the amount of packaging they use.

On the other hand, Gizmodo brings up the point that the new bins could also encourage littering.

"[G]iven the choice of properly disposing of their trash—and being charged for their courtesy—or just tossing it on the ground and avoiding all the fees, there's a good chance most residents are going to choose the latter, cheaper, and easier route," Andrew Liszewski wrote for Gizmodo.

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