Now on Facebook: Your garbage. Or at least, the garbage of five households who signed up for a Newcastle University program that posts photos of every item dumped in one garbage can on Facebook. Hoping to raise consciousness about recycling efforts, it uses a sensor and a camera phone to snap an image each time the garbage can lid shuts. The person who does that is not photographed, and households that participate will be rated on how efficiently they recycle. So far, researchers say it's working. Non-recyclable garbage has diminished in the weeks since the program began.
"Normally when you throw something away and the lid goes down you forget about it, out of sight out of mind, and that's the end of it," said one of the students in charge of the project. "But the reality could not be further from the truth." The program isn't designed to humiliate people who recycle poorly, but rather to make people reflect on how they dispose of waste. Still, one privacy advocacy group has concerns about the pilot project. "This sounds like an elaborate joke—except it isn't," said the director of Big Brother Watch. "Encouraging recycling is fine but publicly humiliating those who choose not to is outrageous." (Read more recycling stories.)