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In some cities, it’s recycle, or else…

September 27, 2010

Keeping with the theme of the previous post about law and trash, a new type of law enforcement that is monitoring how people handle their daily recycling is raising eyebrows in several cities across the U.S.. These cops, sans the guns, are called the Green Police.

The Green Police keep track of people’s recycling habits with new computer chips that are installed in recycling bins, which, in Cleveland, help the Green Police determine how much to fine people for their (gasp!) lack of recycling.

Although the system is not in place all across the United States (there are no recycling laws in Missouri, or in Columbia for that matter), policing recycling habits seem to be an increasing trend.

Chips are already installed in cities such as North Carolina, Ohio, Idaho, and Michigan. Reaction has been mixed thus far: Some feel this is another way for local government to keep tabs on the population, others are excited to see the environment improve as people are forced to recycle.

John Brandon of recently looked at this issue in depth; examining both sides’ perspectives on the issue.  One viewpoint was from Harry Lewis, a professor at Harvard University. He worries that the government might use the computer chip information for more invasive purposes in the future. He thinks cities should focus on enlightening residents on how to recycle properly instead of punishing them.

Where Michael Kanellos, of GreenTech Media was quoted as saying, “Consumers that diligently recycle will likely become eligible for rebates in some jurisdictions”. He feels that having the Green Police in place will move recycling from something that some people do, to something that everyone does for the environment as a way to “reduce household bills.”

Do you think such a policing method is a good way to nudge people to inculcate better recycling habits, or is this a pure invasion of privacy?

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