Posted June 11th, 2011 by Stephen Roper

University students in Newcastle are doing an experiment to what is being thrown in their bins by posting the contents on popular social networking site Facebook.

The experiment is being done to teach the students to become more efficient recyclers. A sensor and camera is put inside the bin and a photo taken of what is put inside is uploaded to Facebook. Graphs are then produced on the social media site to show how much waste each member of the households are recycling. There is also a place on Facebook where members of the new scheme can share recycling tips.

At this time the ‘bincam’ programme is taking place in five student households in Newcastle and their recycling efforts are being accessed.

The students that set up the project say that having your rubbish posted on Facebook will help raise awareness about what needs to be recycled.

Project leader Anje Thieme said “sometimes we all get caught not recycling, if we’re tired or can’t be bothered the rubbish goes straight in the bin without a thought for disposing of it correctly.” She added “Normally when you thrown something in the bin the lid goes down and its forgotten about, but by taking a photo and uploading it to Facebook, it’s a bit like having your conscience on your shoulder.”

The project is being aimed at University students as recent research has shown that people in the age group 18-34 recycle the least. In the UK we currently throw away 5.3 million tonnes of unwanted food every year and nearly 5 million tonnes of packaging which all could have been recycled correctly.

The project seems to be working well as after 2 weeks of running the experiment the bins in the five households were emptied less frequently as more waste was being recycled. Some of the students reported that it felt like the bin was constantly watching them so they felt like they had to think about what they were putting in it.

However Privacy Advocacy Group Big Brother Watch raised concerns about the project, director Daniel Hamilton said “This sounds like an elaborate joke – except it isn’t.” He added “Encouraging people to recycle more is fine but humiliating those who don’t in public is completely outrageous.” He also said that it wouldn’t surprise him if local councils take up the idea in the future.

The plan is to roll out the ‘bincam’ project to many more students and Universities at the start of the next academic year.

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