Concerns that council volunteers watching out for litter and graffiti could become overzealous informers have been voiced by the Taxpayers Alliance.
The organisations policy analyst Matthew Sinclair said: Theres a fear that the [role of volunteers] could become an imposition on peoples privacy.
He said that rules and fines against people who make honest mistakes such as leaving their bin lids open, taking rubbish out the night before it is collected or putting the wrong kind of recycling in their bins was draconian.
We already have quite strong policies to deal with waste, like the landfill tax, and now what we have are draconian attempts to meet European regulations, he said.
Reporting people for serious fly-tipping offences is not new people have always done it. But now with broader definitions, its what people deem to be crimes.
Sinclair cited other policy concerns: The tongue in cheek suggestion earlier this year that children should report on their parents. Its an almost sinister attempt to control people.
However, a spokesman for Eastleigh Council, which is recruiting unpaid environmental volunteers, said: Volunteers will have general responsibilities such as reporting litter, fly-tipping, dog fouling and graffiti. But they will not look at individuals. If there is an abandoned vehicle or litter, the idea is that the volunteers will be an extra pair of eyes and ears around the area. Its more like an environmental neighbourhood watch.
The council has teams that go out on a daily basis and these are people who would report to the council. But they are not bin spies.
A spokesman for the Local Government Association echoed Eastleighs sentiments, adding: Theres no suggestion that volunteers are being asked to become bin spies. Such people will report incidences of littering or fly-tipping.
"They will champion activities such as recycling by leading by example and showing others how to be environmentally friendly.