Almost 100 councils have admitted secretly taking residents' rubbish and examining it to see how much they are recyling.
In the controversial surveys, officials took random samples of waste from households and picked through what was being throwing out without telling homeowners. In one area, houses were even pigeon-holed into social categories to see the difference in the rubbish thrown out from rich and poor.
Councils claimed the surveys had to be secret in order to accurately reflect behaviour without influencing people, while the information gleaned could be used to target education campaigns at those who are failing to recycle plastic bottles, tins, paper and other goods.
But critics say sifting through the contents of a rubbish bin is the latest example of the the "bin police" following fortnightly bin collections, separate collections for food waste and the threat of bin taxes, in addition to being an invasion of residents' privacy.
Some 87 councils in England admitted after Freedom of Information Act requests that they had sanctioned the work in order to determine where resources should be spent to boost re-cycling rates.
The York and North Yorkshire Waste Partnership (YNYWP) conducted a survey of nearly 1,000 homes within eight council areas including Scarborough, Harrogate and City of York Councils.
A spokesman for Scarborough Council said: "On request householders were informed of the work; we did not publicise the study as this may have affected the validity of results as householders may have changed their disposal habits."
In East Sussex a total of 1,000 homes from Eastbourne, Hastings, Lewes, Rother and Wealden Councils had their bin contents scrutinised. The properties were even assessed before the collection to put them into one of five social categories ranging from Level 1 Wealthy Achievers to Level 5 Hard Pressed.
And in one of the biggest studies, 11 councils in Kent allowed the bins from more than 2,000 homes to be scrutinised for the Kent Waste Partnership (KWP), and it was then sorted into 66 different types of rubbish.
A spokesman said: "The data from the waste audit is proof positive that more work needs to be done to reduce food waste."
But Dartford Council opted out of the Kent survey. Leader of the Council, Councillor Jeremy Kite has said: "I strongly object to the analysis and examination of waste put out for collection unless specific permission is obtained from the householder and have intervened to prevent such exercises in Dartford on more than one occasion.
"I am entirely disinterested in how common-place such practices are. I do not believe it is right and we made a 2007 manifesto commitment not to do it. We aim to secure higher rates in recycling through education, common-sense policies and positive action."
The Government has brought in a number of measures recently to boost recycling, including fortnightly bin collections and separate food waste collections. Ministers have also proposed bringing in "pay as you throw" bin taxes where residents are charged for throwing away non-recycled waste. As part of this many councils are already "spying" by implanting microchips in residents' bins in order to measure how much waste they are throwing out.
Caroline Spelman, the Tory local government spokesman, says she feared the "secret surveys" are part of the same programme.
"This government is obsessed with spying on people and putting them in social boxes," she said.
"When people put their bins out they're entitled to trust their rubbish is being disposed of rather than analysed.
"We all want to reduce household waste but this is another case of councils being coerced into using the stick rather than the carrot.
"We will outlaw this practice so that people can put their bins out at the end of the week with confidence."
Doretta Cocks, of the Campaign for Weekly Waste Collection, said the heavy-handed approach will further alienate households.
"Ths is snooping. If they want to see proportion of waste thrown out by different households in each area they can look at the official figures. What they are doing is spotting who is recycling and who is not so they can bring in fines and taxes."
However a spokesman for the Local Government Association insisted the surveys were part of improving waste services and cutting landfill.
"Councils are paying ever more to throw people's rubbish away and boosting recycling is essential to keeping council tax down," he said.
"Helping people to understand better what they can and can't recycle is vital if councils are to spend less on rubbish and more on things like caring for old people and fixing potholes."
Click to view image: 'GarbageDossier'
Tags: England, UK, United Kingdom, Britain, Garbage, Trash, Recycle, Recycling, Environment, Environmental, Hysteria, Orwellian, Welfare State, Statism, Government, Surveillance, Spying
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