- In the U.K., the Suffolk County Council's annual customer survey about recycling services has sparked controversy for getting very personal in its questions, as reported by Metro.
- In addition to standard questions on which recycling locations residents use and their satisfaction with the services provided, the survey also has a second page of optional demographic questions. This list includes questions about race, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and HIV status.
- While some residents said the disability questions were understandable to ensure recycling centers were accessible, they were upset with the others. In a widely reported statement, a council spokesperson emphasized that the questions were optional and said they were important because, "We need to know not everyone is the same."
As U.K. councils work to resolve challenges with high contamination rates it makes sense to engage with customers about their recycling habits and how services could be improved. Confusion over guidelines has been an issue and the resulting frustration has even led some residents to attack their collection workers. Suffolk has launched a new campaign featuring "Bernie the binman" to educate residents about proper recycling habits.
Demographic information can be pertinent in some cases to better understand trends on a larger scale. Recent research has looked at recycling habits by gender breakdown and age range. This is seen as particularly useful when it comes to recycling habits for certain materials. Yet many local residents and media outlets viewed Suffolk's survey questions as an unnecessary invasion of privacy.
The intersection between privacy and waste was recently debated in Seattle, where a judge ruled it was unconstitutional for city employees to look for organic material in residents' waste containers.