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Remember Audi’s 2010 Superbowl ad portraying “Green Police” engaging in quasi gestapo tactics, hauling away citizens not properly recycling? The marketing executives at Audi may have been more on the cutting edge than we know.

Though the ad mocks government intervention in the everyday lives of citizens, it is actually targeted to a green conscious audience. The automobile being featured is diesel powered but boasts lower emissions than gasoline fueled vehicles.

Audi’s depiction is an increasing reality. In Dayton, Ohio, the city has equipped each resident’s trash bin with a type of tracking chip which catalogs what residents are putting in the bin, according to FOX News. Other cities, including Flint, Michigan, Cleveland, Ohio and Boise, Idaho are tracking their citizen’s refuse. Call it the trash police.

In fact, the city of Cleveland actually issues $100 fine for homes that do not meet the municipality’s recycling guidelines.

Like any other story, the trash police scenario has more than one side. There are benefits to such monitoring but those benefits may be outweighed by the cost of privacy concerns.

* The “Green” Argument

Cities are engaging in these new enforcement provisions to reduce costs. For instance, not sorting your trash means a trip to the landfill. The landfill isn’t infinite. Eventually, the landfill will be full.

Cities looking to cut costs can find revenue savings by cutting down on having to sort trash. Separating glass, plastics and other materials makes the conversion from refuse to reusable material more simple. That reduces not only time but cost.

Moreover, any tracking devices cities use tell them useful information. It helps them identify habits. That translates into marketing revenue. It also means green conscious residents will qualify for rebates. Those rebates encourage other citizens to become more prudent in separating their trash.

* The “Privacy” Argument

Of course, with any government tracking comes concerns about privacy. The social website Facebook has come under fire from both private citizens, elected officials and consumer rights advocacy groups for its “tracking” of subscribers.

The same concern goes for tracking trash. Call it the “slippery slope” phenomenon. Privacy rights organizations and advocates believe once any government engages in keeping tabs on its citizenry, there is little recourse. Moreover, once instituted, tracking becomes more wide spread to other facets.

The bottom line is recycling is not only environmentally responsible, it does reduce costs. The trick is to balance public stewardship with personal rights.

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