Public works officials in Laurel, Md., don't like wasting money -- especially not on dumping trash that could have been recycled.

That's why the city made recycling a requirement for city residents living in single-family homes and townhouses, and encourages it at apartment complexes. That's also why its public works department recently installed radio frequency identification (RFID) tags on recycle bins to track recycling habits.

Laurel's high-tech approach is part of a pilot program in the city's Greens of Patuxent neighborhood, in which recycling crews use handheld scanners to read the tags attached on the bins and record their data. With software and technology developed by Rehrig Pacific Co., each ID tag has been linked to an address, so the city can keep track of residents who recycle and those who don't.

Typically noncompliance leads to a courtesy notice, which can then lead to citations of $25 to $100. But the city wants to avoid fines. None will be issued during the program, which the city hopes will help educate rather than penalize the public, said Michele Blair, the city's recycling coordinator.

The idea of scanning recycle bins has roots elsewhere in a program called RecycleBank, which tracks how many pounds a household recycles and offers incentives, such as coupons and discounts. Co-founded in 2005 by Ron Gonen, the program runs in more than 75 cities and in the UK.


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Russell Nichols  |  Staff Writer