Saskatoon streets and back alleys may soon be home to some high-tech garbage bins.

City councillors have approved a plan that would see every black individual roll-out bin fitted with a radio-frequency identification tag. The tags allow the city to track whether a bin has been emptied.

The entire proposal, which includes additional technology on garbage collection trucks, is estimated to cost about $1 million.

Brenda Wallace, the city's environmental services manager, stressed the idea is not to create "garbage police".

"That's really not what this is about," Wallace said. "This is about confirming that we've collected the waste that they've put out for collection. Not about what goes in what stream. There will be cameras on the trucks, however. And the purpose of that is to have a look to make sure that the cart was there when our collections operator has gone by."

The information gathered, however, would help the city trace back the owner of a the bin if someone dumps inappropriate materials inside, such as drywall or chunks of concrete.

"If we have had to miss that cart we would leave an 'Oops' notice, similar to what the recycling program is doing," said Wallace. "Sometimes it's overloaded and there's extra garbage on the ground. Sometimes there's parked cars that block our access."

Officials recommended using a British Columbia company, Steel Container Systems Canada, for the project. The company would also install devices to track Saskatoon's garbage trucks using GPS or global positioning systems. The city says that would help them design more efficient routes.

City expects significant productivity gains

Last year, the City of Saskatoon received nearly 12,000 complaints about missed collections and damaged bins.

Wallace said the tracking technology would lead to "significant" productivity gains and increased fuel efficiency, as garbage trucks would be less likely to have to backtrack through neighbourhoods. The transponder chips would help the city's two garbage inspectors to locate lost bins.

Wallace estimated the new technology would save Saskatoon taxpayers roughly $201,000 a year.