Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

08.16 21 Apr 2021


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Car registration numbers should be put on drive-through takeaway packaging to discourage people from throwing litter out of car windows, one Fine Gael senator says.

John McGahon believes there should be a way to track down drivers or passengers who throw rubbish out a car window.

The idea of putting customer info on packaging has been put forward by some anti-litter groups in both Ireland and internationally.

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Senator McGahon told Newstalk Breakfast that he has seen himself the scale of the current littering problem in Ireland.

He observed: “I was out doing a litter pick at the weekend with Haggardstown tidy towns. I went for one kilometre along the hedgerow… the bag had completely filled up.

“The vast majority of it was rubbish that had been thrown out of car windows.”

The Louth senator said most of the litter he came across was takeaway rubbish.

He believes fast food companies should put a printed sticker with the purchaser's car registration number and the date/time of purchase on takeaway cups, boxes and bags.

He explained: “It would make it very difficult for the potential litterer to remove it if they still wanted to throw it out the window.

“Secondly, the restaurant CCTV would be able to use that with pictures of the driver and the vehicle to provide solid evidence that the individual was the purchaser.”

Senator McGahon said another approach would be a printed QR code, which could provide the info when scanned.

GDPR concerns?

The idea of customer data on takeaway packaging has been proposed in the UK previously.

McDonald's UK has previously ruled it out, suggesting that printing the data on registration plates would go against GDPR regulations.

Senator McGahon believes GDPR can be a “handy excuse for any large company to hide behind when they don’t want to introduce something that can be difficult”.

He said: “I’d have absolutely no issue with my car registration plate being printed on my McDonald’s takeaway or any takeaway… because I know it’s going to straight into the bin once it’s used.

“I think the only people that should be concerned about this are the people who are regularly littering and throwing rubbish out the window.”

The Fine Gael senator wants representatives of the fast-food companies to come before an Oireachtas climate committee to answer questions about what they're doing to tackle littering.

However, he believes printing the car registration info on takeaway packaging is something the companies could do to make their customers accountable for littering.

Main image: File photo. Picture by: Berliner Verlag/Archiv/DPA/PA Images

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