Recycle or Else? Big Brother to Pick Through Trash

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"At the first opportunity, voters should take care to replace council members who embrace spy chips with brand-new leaders who will respect individual freedom and common sense," it said.

Conservative pundit Michelle Malkin also chimed in with a blog post about the "nosy trash cans."

"Yeah. It stinks. And taxpayers don't need any high-falutin' technology to detect it," she said.

But some local residents say they see it as a step in a right direction.

"I'm excited to see Cleveland taking steps toward recycling." said Liz Ilg, the Cleveland-area campaign director for the non-profit Ohio Citizen Action. "It seems like it's been too long, if you compare Cleveland to other places in the state."

She said it's not an issue her group is focusing on at the moment but, for the Cleveland resident who makes an effort to recycle, the new program will make it easier to keep her recyclable waste out of landfills.

Other Trash-Tracking Programs Reward Residents

But the city's punitive -- rather than incentive-based program -- might not be as effective as other similar programs popping up across the country, she said.

"I think for a lot of people who aren't accustomed to recycling, they'll probably be more motivated to recycle with positive incentives," she said.

Atul Nanda, an executive with RecycleBank, an innovative program that rewards recyclers by the pound, agreed.

Using microchips attached to recycling bins, RecycleBank helps cities across the country and Canada track how much each household recycles. The pounds of recyclables translate into points that can be redeemed at a variety of retail partners, including Bed, Bath & Beyond and CVS pharmacies.

"We'd rather incentivize residents as opposed to penalizing residents," he said. "We'd much rather take the approach whereby using the RFID tags and putting it on a cart and tracking participation rates ... and recycling rates for municipalities and then rewarding residents for recycling. We think that will be more readily accepted by residents."

Nanda said Toronto, for example, uses RFID tags to track recycling but doesn't penalize non-participating households. Chicago, Phoenix and Houston are a few cities that track recycling and reward residents with RecycleBank.

Other cities such as New York, San Francisco and Newark issue fines for violating recycling laws, although they lack the high-tech monitoring.

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