Despite the introduction of council street enforcement wardens and zero-tolerance litter campaigns, a quarter of the nation’s streets are now considered to be littered compared with just 16 per cent six years ago. The nine per cent increase will add further weight to Keep Britain Tidy’s calls for food companies to take greater responsibility for the packaging waste they produce.
Nationwide in Britain, McDonald’s made up more than a quarter of all fast food litter with throw-away items including burger wrappers, condiment sachets and plastic straws.
In Leicester city centre, McDonald’s rubbish made up a staggering 71 per cent of all street litter. In second place on the nationwide trash list were unbranded chip wrappings and packaging from the local chip shop, followed in third by Greggs. KFC and Subway were fourth and fifth in the gutter share league.
Surveyors spent two days last month identifying and recording fast food litter in Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Leicester, Birmingham, Bristol, Southampton and London.
Keep Britain Tidy said it has delivered its findings to the chief executives of the companies named in the research and is demanding that the fast food industry take more responsibility for what happens to fast food and packaging taken away from premises.
“This is the very first time we have looked at which brands make up littered England,” said Phil Barton, Keep Britain Tidy chief executive. “[And] of the ten cities surveyed the same brands appeared again and again.”
He added that while the campaign condemned litterers, the fast food industry also had to take responsibility for the amount of packaging it produces and the litter that results.
“McDonald’s, the local chip shop, Greggs, KFC and Subway need to do more to discourage littering by their customers,” he said. “Fast food makes up a quarter of all litter found on our streets. We want fast food chains to play a more active role in delivering an anti-litter message at the point of sale.” Barton praised McDonalds past attempts to curb litter, but insisted the company had to go further in its efforts to tackle the problem. “We know from working with McDonald’s in the past that the company takes a responsible attitude to its communities by running local anti-litter campaigns, ” he said. “However, McDonald’s litter remains all too prevalent on our streets and we’d like the company to do more to tackle the problem… We want all fast food chains to reduce unnecessary packaging and make it easier for customers to do the right thing.”
As part of their campaign, Keep Britain Tidy said it has contacted fast food companies urging them to: reduce unnecessary packaging; make eating-in a more attractive option by reducing prices for customers who stay on the premises; encourage eating-out customers to use a bin once they’ve finished their meal; increase signage in restaurants with anti-litter messages; offer money-off vouchers or incentives to customers who return packaging; put more bins at strategic points – not just directly outside their premises.
The findings come at the same time as new research revealed that there is a strong commercial case for food companies to tackle litter. The research carried out by Dr Stuart Roper at University of Manchester’s Business School and Professor Cathy Parker at Manchester Metropolitan University found that litter can have a detrimental effect on a firm’s brand value.
“There is clear evidence that seeing litter with a company’s brand on can negatively affect the public’s perception of that brand,” said Professor Parker. “There is, therefore, a good commercial reason why fast food operators should take more of an interest in what happens to their packaging once it leaves their premises.”