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May 14, 2010

Just Because You’re Paranoid Doesn’t Mean…

There are two problems you might encounter if you run around claiming that you think the government has inserted a microchip in your recycling bin to track your household refuse habits.

1) You’ll sound like a lunatic.

2) You’ll alert the authorities that you’re on to them.

And so it was last week that I was reading an article about these new recycling bins in Alexandria, Virginia (bordering our Arlington headquarters) that were going to include microchips in them so that the authorities could track people’s recycling behavior.

As Stacy Herring, Alexandria's recycling coordinator helpfully pointed out:

"If you know who's participating in the programs, you can focus your education and outreach to those who are not participating."

We should emphasize that that does not in the least bit sound chilling.  In fact, those goose bumps that just went up your spine were probably from a draft or something.  Maybe you left a window open?

Artist’s depiction of Alexandria focusing their education and outreach

Green Police

If you are like most Planet Moron readers, the terms of your parole require that you wear an ankle bracelet, so you aren’t too concerned about whether or not the government is tracking which bin you tossed the no. 5 plastic shampoo bottle into, but the rest of you are quite possibly concerned with this monitoring program.

Well, hey, what can you do, right?  If the people in Alexandria want tracking chips in their blue recycling Bin 1 bins, which bear an uncanny resemblance to the ones we got in Arlington last year, right down to the size, shape, color…

Uh, oh.

Okay, so our recycling bins look just like the lo-jacked Alexandria ones.  I’m sure Arlington County would have notified us if…

“Venishka Hurdle, who coordinates recycling education programs in Arlington, said the county implemented larger, tracking-chip loaded recycling bins last year…”

“Hurdle said Arlington County is collecting data from the bins' microchips, but had not yet used that data to improve recycling outreach and education programs.”

Okay, that’s not super comforting. Not only are they overbearing in their monitoring of citizens’ behavior, they are incompetent at it.

So I decided to check the County’s recycling FAQ to see if I could get some information on these tracking devices. There were many useful entries such as:

“How do I sign up for recycling collection?”

“How do I get a recycling cart?”

“What can I recycle at my curb?”

But oddly, nothing along the lines of:

“Hey, did you put a microchip in my bin to track my recycling behavior?”

“I’m serious.  Did you put a microchip in my bin?”

“Are you people out of your freaking minds?”

In fact, I found nothing about the microchips in the county’s year-end report, on the site, anywhere.

Well, they don’t know who they’re dealing with.  Okay, I guess they do, since they’ve been tracking me.  But regardless, it was time to get medieval on my recycling bin.

So I broke out the knife.

Okay, gardening knife.  Great for putting a man down AND planting spring bulbs to their proper depth. 

That doesn’t sound as badass as I could have hoped.

Regardless, let’s see what we have here.

Bin2 Bin3 Bin4

Bin5 Bin6 Bin7


As it turns out, the practice of placing tracking chips in people’s recycling bins is becoming widespread, from the Washington DC area, to Charlotte, NC to Philadelphia, PA, and across the pond to the United Kingdom and across the world to Australia.

It occurs to us that placing microchips in people’s recycle bins has some important societal ramifications:

People who line their windows with aluminum foil to keep out the CIA mind control rays just became 50% less crazy seeming.

I’ll never be able to watch the dramatic opening credits of the cult-classic big-brother series “The Prisoner” without thinking: “You are number 6… recyclable plastic…”

Michelle Obama’s campaign against sugary soda just got a real boost in the monitoring compliance department.

There remains the question of what do with my microchip card.  I had considered making an elaborate show of destroying it here on the blog but Mrs. Moron is afraid I’d be sent to jail.  Actually, that’s a pretty common concern of Mrs. Moron, so no need to add to her stress levels.

I had also considered sending it overseas to check just how good their monitoring devices are, or perhaps sending it to Arlington County recycling coordinator Venishka Hurdle with a note suggesting that I believe he’d accidentally misplaced his microchip in my recycling bin.

If you have any suggestions, please leave them in the comments section.  And hurry. This morning was the first time they collected my recycling sans tracking chip so I might be hearing from them soon.

Now, where did I put that aluminum foil…


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May 14, 2010 at 10:44 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink


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I'm not sure what the microchip records or how it records info but I think you should attach it to the trash truck the next time it comes by. If it records movement then they will be impressed with how much it travels. If it records the volume, then you might win an award for how much waste you recycle. Either way its a win win.

Posted by: My2Cents | May 23, 2010 10:44:18 PM

Wipe it clean of fingerprints, and with gloves on mail it to Venishka from an anonymous mailbox so that it can't be traced to you.

Posted by: Wacky Hermit | May 19, 2010 3:13:52 PM

Take it to the metal stripping shop and see how much the copper is worth.

Posted by: CopperisGood | May 18, 2010 3:51:12 PM

I think Baby Moron has something that needs to go in the trash regularly...

Posted by: TheOldMan | May 17, 2010 1:39:54 PM

Well now you have a problem. You need to dispose of this chip, but what type of bin is appropriate for throwing away a bin use tracking chip? And more importantly, how will they know how many people know that?

Posted by: Amarsir | May 15, 2010 2:24:24 AM

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