Printing car number plates on McDonald’s food packaging to deter littering looked at by Welsh council

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A Welsh council has looked at printing car registration plates on food packaging from McDonald’s drive-through restaurants to deter littering. Picture: Pixabay.

Richard YouleLocal Democracy Reporter

Printing car number plates on food packaging from McDonald’s drive-through restaurants to deter littering has been considered by a Welsh council.

Chris Howell, Swansea Council’s head of waste, parks and cleansing, said he felt the idea had merit but that there were drawbacks.

Mr Howell told a climate change corporate delivery committee meeting: “The Welsh Government has explored with McDonald’s, or their franchises, whether or not they could print number plates of cars collecting takeaways from their drive-throughs with a view that that would discourage people from discarding their materials (litter).”

Mr. Howell said there was an issue about which fast-food companies would “go first” with such an initiative.

He said: “If McDonald’s does it, then people will just go to Burger King instead of McDonald’s, because nobody wants to have their private details printed on that packaging.”

He added: “I think it’s a really good idea, but at the moment it’s fraught with some difficulties.”

Two years ago, Plaid Cymru launched a petition calling on fast-food companies to print number plates on drive-through packaging after an increase in litter as people headed to outlets after the first coronavirus lockdown.

The Welsh Government said littering was not acceptable and that it was working on a new prevention plan with businesses and councils.

Meanwhile, Mr Howell said Swansea was forecast to recycle 70% of waste from households and 1,500 commercial customers the council collects from this financial year, which would hit a Wales-wide target two years ahead of schedule if achieved.

A decade ago the figure was just under 48%.

Mr Howell said the efforts of households and businesses in Swansea had been “fantastic”. The recycling rate of commercial customers, though, is currently just under 58%, which brings down the overall recycling rate.

A report before the committee said recycling targets could be hit without altering the current fortnightly collection of black bin bags, but that this could change if more stringent targets were introduced.

In Carmarthenshire, black bin bags will be collected every three weeks from next January.

Mr Howell said Swansea Council was always looking to increase the type of materials it collected from the kerbside, but that technology and markets to deal with these materials had to be in place.

Soft, flexible plastics and potentially textiles were, he said, “priority” materials for the council to consider picking up.

He said supermarkets were keen for councils to offer a kerbside service for soft plastics, but that the market for processing them was “very much in its infancy”.

£19m cost

Swansea Council’s waste service costs just over £19 million per year, but it claws back nearly £7 million via income from commercial contracts and the sale of recyclable materials.

Mr. Howell said the authority’s fleet of refuse lorries would need to be renewed shortly, and that consideration would be given to the next fleet having three compartments instead of two to accommodate an extra type of waste material.

He said some refuse vehicles in Wales had several compartments, and that there were pros and cons to this.

“The system (we have) works perfectly well for us – I would not want to fix what’s not broken, but obviously times continue to move on,” he said.


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