Councils secretly snooped on the rubbish of 2,000 homes

by Published Mon 11 May 2009 19:29
Councils snoop on residents' rubbish

The Kent Waste Partnership has analysed rubbish from the bins of more than 2,000 homes without their owners’ knowledge in a bid, they say, to cut waste and boost recycling.

The contents of the bins were studied to discover exactly what was inside and all councils in Kent took part, with the exception of Dartford, which claimed the exercise was intrusive and amounted to spying.

The survey found that food waste made up 34 percent of the rubbish bins with paper and card accounting for 16 percent followed by glass waste at 6 percent.

A Kent Waste Partnership spokeswoman said householders were not informed because “national practice on waste surveys has shown that advising residents beforehand that a waste survey is taking place simply serves to change their behaviours at the time of the survey.

“The result is that the data from the survey can be significantly distorted from normal behaviours, and prevent local authorities from having the proper information on which to base business decisions involving tax payers’ funds.

“The approach taken by the KWP was to secure the information that is needed, and to do so in a discreet and measured manner.”

The KWP is responsible for waste management in Kent and is made up of the county’s 12 district and borough councils who collect domestic waste and Kent County Council, which is responsible for its disposal.

The Kent Waste Partnership was created in April 2007 with the purpose of “ensuring 'joined up thinking' between Kent's two tiers of local government and giving the tax payers of the county the best possible service and value for money”.

Dartford Borough Council, whose recycling rates are among the lowest in Kent, refused to take part in the audit, saying the methods amounted to “spying”.

A KWP spokeswoman said: “Dartford BC’s governing administration has a manifesto commitment from 2007 around not taking part in waste audits.”

One resident of Ashford, Kent, said: “We should have guessed the council were up to something, for the first time in recent memory the bins were collected on time and everything was taken away for a change.

The survey also showed that pet bedding and dense plastic made up 7 percent of rubbish, plastic film made up 5 percent, textiles 3 percent and waste electrical and electronic equipment 1 percent.

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