Farmer's bold plan to stop people throwing McDonald's rubbish out of cars

Josh Dutton
News Reporter

A farmer has been praised for a bold plan to stop people tossing rubbish from fast food chains out of their cars.

Tom Martin, a farmer in Cambridgeshire north of London, tweeted to McDonald’s, asking the restaurant to “start printing car registration numbers on takeaway packaging”.

“This constant tide of littering will stop,” he tweeted. 

“Come on guys – what a Christmas gift to the countryside (and taxpayer) that would be!”

Mr Martin later told Yahoo News Australia farmers in the country spend “a fair amount of time” picking up litter.

“I thought it would be a great idea to print car registration numbers on fast food packaging, allowing litterers to be fined for spoiling the countryside and endangering wildlife as well as costing money to clear up,” Mr Martin said.

“It’s not right that those of us who take our litter home are clearing up the waste of those who commit this offence, and we shouldn’t have to pay someone else to do it either; litterers should be held responsible.

“I’m a big fan of wildlife, I love our beautiful countryside, and I really don’t like to see the enjoyment of many spoilt by the selfish few.”

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The farmer also pointed out the technology is available to print on any surface passed under a printer. He said a QR code could also be used instead of a registration number.

‘It drives me insane’

The farmer’s idea was largely met with a positive reception.

One woman tweeted she’s often picking up fast food garbage despite being more than four kilometres away from a drive-thru.

“This could save me a huge amount of time picking up other people's rubbish,” she tweeted.

Another woman simply called it a “great idea” and another said it was “genius”.

“It drives me insane seeing this,” one man tweeted.

“We work in some very remote locations and still see rubbish from the big 3/4 drive-thru outlets. 

“If they’ve driven that far with it in the car then surely they can take it all the way home to a bin?”

Some people have called Tom Martin's idea 'genius'. Source: Facebook/ Farmer Tom

However, people suggested Mr Martin’s concept had some problems, including not holding people who buy their fast food over the counter accountable.

“Good idea in theory, but would only work for a drive-thru,” one man tweeted.

Another man added the idea is “interesting” but he remains doubtful for a different reason.

“I am sceptical it will reduce the amount of takeaway packaging thrown on the ground unless police pick up the discarded litter and track down the vehicle by its registration number then pay the owner a visit,” he tweeted.

One man suggested it could be problematic if birds picked through garbage and a bag somehow ended up on the road with registration info on it.

“Putting your rubbish in the appropriate bin is no guarantee it won't end up somewhere it shouldn't be unfortunately,” another man tweeted.

In NSW, people are encouraged to report people littering from cars by the Environment Protection Authority.

To do this, you have to be able to provide the vehicle’s registration details and where the littering took place.

Some people believe the idea won't work. Source: Getty Images/file

‘It doesn’t prove anything’

Michael Cope, president of Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, told Yahoo News Australia the idea has “all sorts of problems”.

“It’s like what we face here in Brisbane where some stores put up pictures of people they’ve accused of being shoplifters,” Mr Cope said.

“Or when police send photos of people they say walked out without paying the restaurant bill.

“Where is the presumption of innocence?”

Mr Cope was also concerned people could post details on social media if they find a fast food bag on the road.

“The degree of publicity in this case is disproportionate to the offence,” he said.

“Imagine the prospect of someone who finds their name on Twitter or Facebook because of this when the takeaway container simply blew out of the garbage bin.”

Mr Cope added he didn’t like the idea of organisations such as fast food restaurants collecting private data.

Michael Cope, president of Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, has argued the plan could have its problems. Source: Getty Images/file

The farmer said people who disposed of rubbish in any manner needed to be held accountable for their waste.

“UK law states that our waste is our responsibility,” Mr Martin said.

“If we employ someone to clear our household waste and they dump the rubbish, then we as householders are liable as it is our waste; this principle could be extended to fast food litter after people have said ‘what about if a bird picks my rubbish out of a bin?’ or ‘what about if someone else in the car throws the litter to spite the driver?’. 

“Therefore it’s not a breach of privacy; it’s our responsibility.”

Yahoo News Australia has contacted McDonald’s for comment.

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