Printing car number plates on McDonald’s food packaging to avoid litter being investigated by the Welsh Government

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A Welsh council has looked into printing license plates on food packaging at McDonald’s drive-through restaurants to avoid litter. Image: Pixabay.

Richard YouleReporter for Local Democracy

Printing license plates on food packaging from McDonald’s drive-through restaurants has been looked at to prevent litter, a council waste officer said.

Chris Howell, Swansea Council’s head of waste, parks and cleaning, said he thought the idea was a good one, but there were downsides.

Mr Howell told a meeting of the Climate Businesses Committee: “The Welsh Government has been exploring with McDonald’s or their franchises whether they could print number plates from cars collecting takeaway food from their drive-throughs, with the view that people dispose of their materials (garbage).”

Mr Howell said there was an issue where fast food companies “would come first” in such an initiative.

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

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

Cost £19m

Two years ago, Plaid Cymru started a petition urging fast-food companies to print license plates on drive-through packaging after litter increased as people headed to outlets following the first coronavirus lockdown.

The Welsh Government said littering was unacceptable and was working with businesses and local authorities on a new prevention plan.

Meanwhile, Mr Howell said Swansea is expected to recycle 70% of the waste from households and 1,500 commercial customers the council collects this financial year, which would reach a Welsh target two years ahead of schedule if it were met.

Ten years ago it was just under 48%.

Mr Howell said the efforts by households and businesses in Swansea had been “fantastic”. However, the recycling rate of commercial customers is currently almost 58%, which reduces the overall recycling rate.

A report before the committee said the recycling targets could be met without changing the current fortnightly collection of black garbage bags, but that this could change if stricter targets were introduced.

Black rubbish bags will be collected in Carmarthenshire every three weeks from next January.

Mr Howell said Swansea Council has always tried to increase the type of materials being collected from the roadside, but that technology and markets to deal with those materials needed to be in place.

Soft, flexible plastics and possibly textiles, he said, are “priority” materials for the council to consider.

He said supermarkets are keen for municipalities to offer a curbside service for soft plastics, but that the market for their processing is “very much in its infancy”.

Swansea Council’s waste service costs just over £19m a year, but it recoups nearly £7m in revenue from commercial contracts and the sale of recyclable materials.

Mr Howell said the Authority’s refuse collection truck fleet is due to be renewed shortly and consideration is being given to making the next fleet have three compartments instead of two to accommodate an additional type of waste material.

He said some refuse collection vehicles in Wales have multiple compartments and there are pros and cons to that.

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

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