QR codes should be used to help trace people who throw away takeaway packaging illegally, a member of one Cavan community group has suggested.
Eugene Smith from Laragh Community Alert in Co Cavan says their litter-picking volunteers have noticed littering getting worse.
A lot of that is down to food cartons and paper cups being thrown out people’s car windows.
Laragh isn’t alone, as the Irish Business Against Litter (IBAL) group reported a rise in litter levels across the board last year.
The problem has only gotten worse during the pandemic as a result of more outdoor socialising, as well as less activity by cleaning staff and volunteers due to restrictions.
Mr Smith told Lunchtime Live his group alone has collected over a tonne and a half of rubbish in their parish alone over the past 12 months.
He said: “This problem is becoming worse, and the fly-tipping is becoming worse.”
His proposal would be for takeaway restaurants to print off a QR code they could then stick on packaging.
Scanning the code wouldn’t bring up customer details such as car registrations, as that idea was shot down in the UK due to concerns around data protection.
Instead, Mr Smith says the QR code would simply contain information about when and where the food was purchased.
That could then be used to reference CCTV or a restaurant's records to find out who bought the food.
He explained: “The environmental officer from the county council does have the power to prosecute people for dumping. They could scan that [QR code].”
He said he’s not blaming takeaways for the littering problem, as they have no control over what happens with packaging after it leaves their premises.
However, he believes many businesses would be in favour of stamping down on the littering problem.
He suggested there’s already a cost for picking up litter - borne by local authorities in particular - and he thinks his idea would cost very little if existing technology was adjusted correctly.
Another caller Amy said she works in a family-run takeaway, and agrees that those who litter should be caught.
She said: “We get a lot of complaints from neighbouring shops and housing estates...saying that the packaging is in their garden.
“We have no control of these customers. We tell them specifically at the takeaway they can’t sit in.”
However, she believes the QR code idea would be difficult to implement - noting there are already data protection concerns and issues when it comes to organising food delivery services.
She said a registration number or code could be printed off, but it would still contain information taken from somewhere.
Another caller noted there could be issues as anyone with a smartphone can easily scan a QR code to find out the details within it.
Others suggested litterers would simply tear off the code before dumping the containers.