Saturday, 6 March 2010
Chips with Everything
I'd like to be able to commend Gary Hopkins' latest wheeze to reduce waste, apparently by rewarding those householders who reduce their 'black bin' waste. In principle it's fine. I can live with the idea that my black bin gets weighed; that's not nearly as intrusive as what Google has learned (and recorded) about me just as I research this short piece.
Still, Gary's notoriety as the man who would spy on you has spread quickly and widely. Locally (and inevitably) Labour's bruiser, John Bees, in the Post has taken the lead. Nationally, the Daily Mail has taken up the 'Town Hall Spies' theme, and further afield even the San Diego Union Tribune has a piece on the same lines.
All these, and many more, are sounding off without bothering to find out what is actually being applied for in Bristol. And Gary Hopkins is no help there, because in spite of claiming "we wanted local people to know what we were proposing before it was agreed" there's little in the council press release or website, or in the recycling press to tell us the details. All that's clear is that the trial is voluntary, measurement is done by microchipping the black bins, and (I think) that the rewards are based on waste reduction over time. It does seem better than the Maidenhead system, which rewards recycling (rather than actual waste reduction). The rewards are set low enough to make any serious abuse unlikely. Possibly the greatest reward for participants is to have their achievements logged on the web.
But from what little is being published, it has self-evident failings as a trial and as an incentive scheme.
The participants are self selecting. They're confident of winning rewards. They can start with full bins, and gradually reduce it to meet the targets, and collect their cheques. But - once those targets are reached, there's no incentive to keep it up. For for those who already throw little away, or for those who don't care, it's not made a blind bit of difference. For those who use their own bins to dispose of locally collected litter, it's a strong disincentive.
So what is all this going to prove, Gary? If you've thought it through and you really can see how this can lead to long term further reductions in household waste, please share your ideas with us. Else we might think it's all self-promotional hype.