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AI Garbage Truck

Your Garbage - Your Privacy

February 21, 20246 min read

“We found items in your recycle cart that are NOT acceptable.” - Artificial Intelligence

Tuesday Feb 20th, 2024 - Kamloops wants Big Brother in your garbage bin.

Sound Off posted at CFJCToday.com


This Tuesday the City of Kamloops held its 2024 Budget Consultation to inform the residents of how the budgeting process works and the supplemental budget items. The city staff have put on another successful event - Staff council and the mayor were all on hand. It was a great chance to catch up and learn about what’s going on in the city.

As I was going through the supplemental items (which can be found here) one of them caught my attention – Item 24.6 Solid Waste Truck Technology. At first, I thought this was about electric functions on the new trucks, which I hear have been having issues, but it was something that director Hallinan said when he was speaking on the subject that really piqued my interest. He said “The new technology would help educate the public and reduce waste contamination” or something to that effect.

“How would technology do that”, I wondered? So, I read the business case that evening. Turns out there are two technologies, and two separate problems the city is trying to solve. The first tech is not so bad, but the second is horrifying. The not-so-bad tech is a new routing system that will allow the drivers to adjust to their now over complicated and dynamic routes due to the triple collection schedule. This new system will ensure that the trucks are where they should be and there are no missed pick-ups or inefficient “go-backs” to pick up missed bins. According to the city, this system will save around $45,000 dollars per year.

The second technology is more worrisome. As director Hallinan mentioned, there is contamination in the waste streams. This comes from non-recyclable items that end up in the recycling feed. Kamloops is then dinged by Recycle BC, and this human error then costs the city an additional $65,000/year in fees due to the contamination in the recycling feed. Let’s put that in context – That’s $0.65 per person in Kamloops that the city could save. That is the cost of human error in the current system, or a couple months of free lunches at the city. Hardly any kind of emergency.

So, what’s the big deal? Well, to solve this non-problem, the city has proposed to use AI (Artificial Intelligence) to automatically scan your garbage when it’s picked up. In another revelation, the business case explains how your garbage bin already has a unique RFID (Radio Frequency Identifier). Therefore, they know which bins belong to which home. So, the plan is that the AI will scan your garbage as it’s dumped, it will be tagged with your bins unique RFID, and you will automatically receive a letter with a picture of the offending items to “educate” you on the correct garbage disposal procedure.

Did you know there was a microchip in your garbage can? Technology is changing fast. Please read the business case for yourself here:


This is an example from the system operating in West Kelowna:


Actual post card from West Kelowna using the same technology.

Immediately thoughts of privacy jump to mind. It was already degrading for the young workers the city put up to go digging through our garbage cans and equally embarrassing to the homeowner who may have sensitive and unsightly items in their garbage bins. Can you imagine: A tween explaining to a homeowner about what personal hygiene items aren’t recyclable?

Now replace that young worker with an impassionate, inhuman computer doing the dirty work to track every bin-every homeowner-every day. With no human limitations, the AI can collect and analyze data 24hrs/day. If the computer can scan for “wrong items”, can it also generate reports of what other items are in your garbage? Will this technology be used to ban other items in the future? Where will this information be stored? Who will have access to it? How will our privacy be ensured? Are there any options that maintain privacy? Will the city graduate from warning letters, to fines, and penalties?

(I think we all know the answer to this last question)

Why would the city consider technology like this? In my opinion, it’s due to their tunnel vision focus on achieving the cities goals of development and sustainability. It’s simply not the city’s goal to care about, let alone protect, your privacy. Their job is to complete strategic goals in the most efficient way possible. But at what cost?

Here's a CBC Article discussing the RFIDs going into garbage cans.


Edit Image

For both systems, the city wants you to approve $271,000 dollars on this with the promise of a potential payback in 3 years. If the cost of my privacy is $0.65/year, I’m happy to continue to pay that – I’m sure most Kamloopsians would agree. Green policies are great when they are cheap, effective and have no effect on our personal liberties. This on the other hand is the exact opposite - its expensive, its invasive and it only offers a marginal improvement in waste segregation.

This type of dual use technology is why we created the Kamloops Citizens Safety Committee Association (KCSC). Since the city has no mandate to look out for your privacy, we’re doing that for you. Find out more about the KCSC here https://www.kamloopscsc.org/ City staff will assure us, there is no plan to track your personal garbage. But once the system is installed, what will be the barrier to stopping them? It's not how its being planned on being used, its how it COULD be used which is the issue. Offering a marginal improvement but giving up a LOT of privacy.

Kamloops, like other cities will assure you technology won't be used to track you, but it already is. It's not what the intention of the technology is, its what the other dual use cases are. Which begs the question - Is there another option, and has the city explored this? If we can achieve the same results without using AI tracking of everything, lets try that first.

My opinion: If the city wants to install tech to monitor and track citizens, they better have a darn good reason. Something akin to life or death would fit the bill. Saving $0.65/year just doesn’t pass the test. As far as the routing technology, let other cities install it first and see how well it works. Until then, I’d rather see $271,000 split up as a grant for a doctor bonus to attract a few more to Kamloops and solve a real emergency.

Tell the city what you think here:


Artificial IntelligenceAIGarbage scanningKamloops Garbage colleciton
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