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litter louts Senator proposes car reg numbers on takeaway packaging to stop drive-by dumping

However, Fine Gael's John McGahon warned GDPR can be a “handy excuse for any large company to hide behind"

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Photo: Senator John McGahon on Twitter.

Photo: Senator John McGahon on Twitter.

Photo: Senator John McGahon on Twitter.

A Fine Gael senator has proposed printing car registration numbers on drive-through takeaway packaging to stop people from throwing it out of car windows.

John McGahon took to the airwaves this morning to highlight the issue and to suggest ways to tackle the problem.

Senator McGahon told Newstalk Breakfast how he had seen for himself the scale of the current littering problem in Ireland while 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,” he said. “The vast majority of it was rubbish that had been thrown out of car windows.”

The Louth senator said that as 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.

“It would make it very difficult for the potential litterer to remove it if they still wanted to throw it out the window,” he argued. “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.

The idea of customer data on takeaway packaging has been proposed in the UK previously where McDonald's UK has previously ruled it out, suggesting that printing the data on registration plates would go against GDPR regulations.

However, 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.

Taking to Twitter, Senator McGahon posted a picture of a bag full of litter.

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He added: “I’ve seen it suggested before, about McDonalds putting a car reg stamp on their takeaway bags to try and deter people from throwing their rubbish out the window. This bag had plenty of McDonalds rubbish in it. Putting a car reg on the packaging would be a deterrent.”

In reply to someone who commented: “Burger King and KFC need to do the same beside DKIT Sport, people pulling into the car park to eat theirs and dumping everything”, Senator McGahon said: “It’s unreal isn’t it. It’s been a few years since I did litter picking with a tidy towns group and I just couldn’t believe the amount of rubbish.”

A similar issue was raised earlier this month in Meath where local council workers there described how “dashboard dining-style dumping” was taking place involving drink and food containers.

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