HOUSEHOLDERS are kicking up a stink after finding "spy bugs" attached to their wheelie bins.
Hyndburn Council has admitted placing the silicon chip devices in the rims of bins where they are not easily seen - and says they are only to build up a picture of recycling rates.
But suspicious residents claim they could be used to record what sort of rubbish is being dumped so the council can take action against those who are not recycling or are putting out too much waste.
One of them, Simon Boardman, 54, was furious when he learned council chiefs had been keeping electronic tabs on his litter.
The Clayton-le-Moors resident, who runs a garage on Grange Lane, Accrington, said: "I had read about this sort of thing in the newspapers and when I went out I found two bugs the size of a 2p coin.
"I was really annoyed. I don't believe anyone has the right to root through my rubbish and spy on me without even letting me know."
Retired teacher Keith Ellel said in a letter to the Observer: "Not even George Orwell in 1984 envisaged Big Brother spying on us with bugs in dustbins."
Mr Ellel, of Westwood Avenue, Rishton, demanded to know if the council planned to extend the bugging and to what use the information gleaned would be put.
He added: "These spy bugs are cleverly hidden in a circular recess under the rim of your bins, not under the lids where they would be visible every time you lifted them."
And he accused the council of "sneaking them in without telling anyone".
Another resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said the microchips had "fallen out" of his bin.
Councillor Peter Clarke, Cabinet portfolio holder for environmental issues, said: "The overall aim of the chip and bin scheme is to build up a picture of recycling rates across the borough.
"This is so we can map non-recycling hotspots and target resources to areas where residents may need help to recycle their waste.
"It also lets us easily identify stolen or misplaced bins and return them to the right house.
"I would like to reassure residents that the chips are not capable of recording any information about what products are placed into the refuse container. They are simply to help us build a picture of how we are doing and help us improve in the future."
He added that removing the chips constituted damage to council property and could leave residents open to prosecution.