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High-tech carts spy on your trash

Cleveland rolls out carts with chip technology that identifies those who do not recycle enough.

I know that the Green Goosesteppers mean well.

I know that they are saving the world from itself and preserving it for those who currently need to chew gum and smoke pot simultaneously in order to pass from one hour to the next.

However, I am a little concerned that, as we are all increasingly placed under surveillance, we will soon be called out for our supposed moral, as well as legal, deficiencies.

Please, for example, look at Cleveland. I don't know whether the city has decided to climb the Mount of Moral High Ground because of the departure of the slightly self-regarding LeBron James. However, the city is currently instituting a technological trash surveillance program that might portend a future in which we will all tremble at the thought that more than 10 percent of our regular trash might have been recyclable.

You see, according to Cleveland.com, the city has decided to make an offer that your refuse cannot refuse. It has embedded chips in carts, so that those nice people who take away the trash can monitor how often your recyclable cart has been brought to the curb for servicing.

There may be a goldmine in your trash. For the city, at least. CC Aldrin Muya/Flickr

Should you fail to wheel out your nice, no doubt green-colored, bin for a few weeks, the trash collectors will dig into your regular trash to see whether it might contain more than the magic number of 10 percent of material that might be actually worthy of recycling. Should your trash show an 11 percent figure, you may be fined $100.

The Cleveland City Council is spending $2.5 million on these high-tech bins, in addition to money it has already spent on a pilot program.

I have a very emotional relationship to trash. I was once a trash collector, and the whole of our crew used to spend most of its time stopping the crusher at regular intervals to inspect the contents of almost every emptied trash can. We would find radios, fur coats, and all sorts of items that we then sold for quite a considerable amount.

We would compensate for this additional time by claiming that all the roads were blocked on Fridays, so the city had to send a special truck out while we took the day off.

So I know just what it means to go through someone's trash in search of additional income. Which, I suspect, might also be a motivation for the Cleveland City Council. You see, much as we should all have faith in the council's green credentials, Cleveland.com also informs us that the city pays $30 a ton to dump ordinary garbage. It makes, however, $26 a ton by selling recyclables.

So how heartening it will be for those fined $100 to know that this money will go some way to compensating the city for its lost revenue.