Fast Food Store Responsibility for scattered litter

We live a 12 minute drive from the nearest fastfood outlets and suffer the litter emanating from their customers who feel it’s okay to throw it from their cars in our streets. Plastic straws featuring prominently.

What about a levy from these companies to cover the collection and disposal of their rubbish?


Even better would be put a refundable deposit on each piece, I’m sure once a straw has value if it is returned there would be less throwing it out the window or as they walk down the street. If you had to then clean any up you could at least get some payment for your time spent as little as it might be but gather lots and then you might get a better refund. This is not being sarcastic, I really do mean put a refundable cost on them.


That is exactly what I have previously posted on this website.

Since the Container Deposit Scheme launched in Qld a year ago, there are virtually no 10 cent refund containers visible in public areas as opposed to the ongoing junk food packaging.

A 10 cent deposit on each piece of junk food packaging would very quickly eliminate the problem and might even help fight the obesity crisis.

And if people cannot afford the deposit and still want to consume junk food, they could eat it in-store with either an in-store refund scheme or no single use packaging.


I work in a business across the road from a McDonand’s store. It’s an almost daily task to clean up the McDonald’s rubbish people have shoved into shelves, put in charity bins or deliberately hidden in stock. I get that everywhere produces waste but McDonald’s and other fast food chains cause a disproportionate amount of work for communities vs what they clean up. They should be running initiatives to at least take as much waste out of the environment as they put in.


One benefit would be that they wouldn’t so casually hand over or so easily make available a straw or similar disposible item if the store knew they would have to pay someone back for it later. Every straw etc would be accounted for as it would have value and thus no longer no care, no responsibility.


Unfortunately they create a product and not responsible for the problem…the problem is the customer which isn’t taking responsibility for the rubbish when the product is consumed.

It would ne nice is a levy or deposit type scheme applies to fast food packaging, but it is unlikely to have much effect unless it was signififant…say a dollar or more per item. There is evidence that levies or container deposit schemes don’t, yes don’t, affect littering behavior. Even with a small container deposit, such as $0.10 which has been adopted in a number of states, the level of littering where such schemes have been introduced has had no effect on the type or rate of litering.

There is economic theory (can’t remember its name offhand at the moment), but is is about small insignificant levies or taxes have no effect on behaviour.

If the amount was significant, the fast food industry would protest as it would substantially increase the purchase cost of its products at the register, potentially impacting on sales. In some ways this may have indirect postive effects such as lower consumption of fast food.

A solution may be to contact your local council and ask them to see if there are sufficient public waste disposal bins as there is an ongoing rubbish/littering problem. While more bins may not fully solve the problem, it may reduce the amount of litter if the bins are close by the consumers of the fast food. Generally such consumers who litter are lazy and won’t walk and significant distance, so more bins closer together may tempt some of the litterers to use the bins handy to them.

Hopefully, council may ask the local fast food outlet to contribute to the cost of more bins.


The reality is it’s more complex than that. If we always decide it’s down to the irresponsible consumer, then we wouldn’t have any environmental regulations at all. We have those regulations because we’ve decided at some point companies need to take responsibility for the environmental damage their products cause, even if the end consumer has made the decision to do the wrong thing.

In my opinion we haven’t put enough pressure on McDonald’s. Rubbish they have manufactured has great cost to the environment, even when disposed of correctly. It also costs local councils and nearby businesses money to remove. So if McDonald’s want to choose to continue to not bother finding solutions, I think they need to be paying a significant levy so someone else can be paid to.


Cleanaway seem to disagree as do State Govts here. From Cleanaway about the schemes:

In particular from their page is “Container return or deposit programs are proving to be a successful way to maximise recycling and recovery” and " Container deposit schemes work

The main driver is the financial incentive, where customers can get back between five to ten cents for every container deposited. The more containers returned equals the more money you can earn. They’re also a fundraising channel, often used by schools, clubs, teams and community groups to raise money through container or cash donations.

One of the most efficient ways to recycle is to separate materials at the point of disposal. This decreases sorting costs at the Material Recovery Facility and increases quality by removing contaminants. Because container deposit schemes create a single stream for beverage container material, they promote source separated recycling and improve recycling outputs.

Widespread awareness of the scheme’s positive benefits further encourages people to recycle their containers over general waste disposal".

From Australian Geographic:

From a research paper titled “Economic incentives reduce plastic inputs to the ocean” in the abstract has this “The effectiveness of CDL at reducing the amount of beverage container litter on the coasts of two countries, Australia and the United States, was evaluated by comparing results of debris surveys in states with and without cash incentives for returned beverage containers. The proportion of containers found in coastal debris surveys in states with CDL was approximately 40% lower than in states without CDL. Additionally, CDL states had a higher ratio of lids to bottles, further demonstrating the effectiveness of the incentives in removing bottles from the waste stream”.

Further in 2016 " BehaviourWorks Australia at Monash University recently reviewed research and data from 47 examples of CDR schemes or trials around the world. This work was commissioned by, but independent of, the NSW Environment Protection Authority.

The 47 CDR schemes recovered an average of 76% of drink containers. In the United States, beverage container recovery rates for aluminium, plastic and glass in the 11 CDR states are 84%, 48% and 65% respectively, compared with 39%, 20% and 25% in non-CDR states. The figures are similar in South Australia, one of the longest-running CDR schemes in the world: 84%, 74% and 85% for cans, plastic and glass compared with national averages of 63%, 36% and 36%.

Some CDR schemes donate the refund to charity, but people are more likely to return a container for a refund. And the greater the refund, the greater the return rates. Most schemes refund 5-10c; the 11 schemes in Canadian provinces include those with refund rates as high as 40c for glass containers over 1 litre in Saskatchewan.

CDR schemes reduce litter overall. Data from seven US states show 69–83% reductions in container waste and 30–47% reductions in overall waste.

Finally, government CDR schemes are sustainable. The 40 government schemes worldwide have operated for an average of 24.8 years and all except two are still going"

From a 2017 study of bottle caps on beaches in the Netherlands “Given that the rate of return of PET bottles carrying deposits is high in the Netherlands – about 95% of the almost 700 million bottles are returned” and “The Netherlands currently has a deposit system for bottles of one litre or more that works well. At least 95% of the almost 650 million large plastic bottles are returned, mostly with the cap attached. These are primarily PET bottles and the deposit is 25 euro cents a bottle. Deposit systems positively influence the behavi-our of consumers – they encourage consumers to return plastic bottles and raise awareness that plastic has a value, including a financial one. The current deposit systems are designed to accept bottles with or without caps. They could be ad-justed so that the deposit can only be claimed if the cap is attached. This would mean that more caps are returned so that fewer caps end up in the environment. In doing so, not only the plastic bottle, but the plastic caps are given a financial value”.

For some these Container Deposit type schemes may not curb their behaviour but for others it is obviously affecting their littering.


One other change might also be to ban the use of one way packaging for in store consumption.

What’s wrong with serving a burger and fries on a plate? Oh, I forgot that would create another job to handle and wash the plates etc.

While many purchases are take away, changing the in store paradigm is a small signal to send to everyone else. From memory Mac’as MacCafe did provide food service on a plate with real cutlery and coffee or tea in a washable cup. :smiley:


Yes they do, but the value in litter reduction is limited. As outlined in another post on another thread, one of the advantages of a container deposit scheme is they separate different plastic types and potentially different glass colours, maximising the potential value of the returned materials. This is done whilst minimising contamination (providing lids on containers are removed) like that as occurs in the domectic and public recycling bins.

I have seen the Cleanaway report in the past where the Clean Up Auatralia figures are quotes. They only compare containers for the previous year and long term statistics show that the claimed 2-3% reduction between 2017 and 2018 was within the normal range of flucstions from year to year. The claimed reduction is a spin on some one off figures for potentially political purposes to justify one of the main reasons why NSW (and QLD) recently adopted the container deposit schemes.

It is also worth noting that using % as a measure is possibly not the best as it could indicate that all litter has increased, along with containers but the proportion of containers in all litter declined.

It is also worth noting that waste collection figures are very rubbery. It is worth looking at say the Queensland State Government annual waste reports to see how rubbery the fugures are. Figures for one waste stream can fluctuate over 50% year on year, where the sources of waste generation or consumption has not changed.

The Australian Geographic article, and while interesting, is more an opinion piece than evidence of a reduction in container litter. Speaking to a number of local authorities in SE Qld, they haven’t noticed a significant change in the amount (number of volume) of litter including containers pre and post implementation of the Queensland scheme (which is possibly similar to the clean up Australia data showing the 2017 to 2018 numbers were within normal annual variations). Local government supports tbe scheme as they receive funds from the scheme (depositis not collected from the consumer) to subsidise costs associated with the running of the scheme.

Anecdotally in our own local area, I pick up litter from streets for many years. Since tge introduction of the Qld scheme, I have not noticed any significant difference in the number of containers being littered (which is consistent with the ancedotal information from local government). The onky benefit is now I can claim the 10 cents which I didn’t have the ability to do before the scheme was indroduced…

It is also correct that the success of a container deposit scheme is likely to be greater in lower socioeconomic areas as smaller amount of money have a greater impact on ones budget than larger amounts.


No that is not correct. Business are required to undertake their activities in a responshile way…and are not responsible for how a consumer uses or discards the used product.

There is legislation and governemnt drivers in relation to recyclability of products being sold and some government policy to encourage, say the fast food industry to use more environmentally friendly packaging (in decades fone past they have used styrofoam packaging for hot foods which has now mostly been phased out).

Making a fast food store responsible for littler is a little like making a car manufacturer responsible if someone contaminateds land through the discard of engine oil. In Australia, all legislation make the polluter responsible for tbe pollution they create. This means a litterer is responsible for the litter they discard…and the one who discards the oil and then contaminates the soil. This is to make one responsible for their own behaviours.


I’m still in awe of the spotless streets in Japan, even in the absence of rubbish
bins on the street.
I feel that not littering mostly comes down to a personal sense of taking responsibility for your own actions, no matter what temptations
Mac and the like throw your way.
Tourists in Rome would treat ancient monuments and the imperial forums as their own rubbish dumps, it said a lot about themselves.


I have a friend who also collects these items and she has noticed a steady decline in those numbers in our area. Anecdotal evidence is just that and may reflect in your area a higher socioeconomic level, a lack of bins, or a number of other factors that influence the littering by people in your area. This is not dismissing your personal experience but by that measure you cannot dismiss the evidence of my friend’s experience.

The Dutch Study which the AG article referenced while perhaps referred to as an opinion was a published study that does show a correlation between CDS and reduction in a litter type and that type was the bottles that had refundable deposits attached. The lids present in litter was a reflection that the lids had no similar value attached to them so were more easily discarded as waste into the environment and why the study called for including the caps in the value system. The AG article also measured caps against bottles and found that where CDS schemes had impact the bottles as waste in the environment declined in a similar way as the Dutch study found. CDS reduces litter of the items that have value attached and in the Dutch study this approaches 95% of those items. While results may be lower elsewhere in the world to some lesser or greater degree it is more likely than less likely (and I expect if stat analysis was performed it would have a high degree of confidence) expanding the amount of items that have a value attached will reduce those items in the litter stream.

Why remove an option from the table that works when other means have, while perhaps successful to some or same degree, are not also perfect in their stopping littering behaviour.but remain in place. As the saying goes “nothing ventured nothing gained”.


I mean many states have taken steps to prohibit businesses handing out plastic bags. And car manufacturers (who you mentioned) have legal requirements to meet emissions standards, despite the fact how the consumer drives the car is going to have a significant impact.

Also keep in mind that even when disposed of correctly fast food rubbish is terrible for the environment


As outlined above, it won’t have any effect on those who litter…and those who chose to do the right thing will continue to do the right thing. Those who litter will continue to litter as the effort to do the right thing will be more than the value of the deposit (esp. if it is say around 10 cents like for the container deposit schemes). As outlined earlier, the only way for it to work is to increase the deposit to say a dollar or few so that the impact of not returning is more likely to influence those who chose not to do the right thing. This would come with major resistance from the food industry and many customers who see the increase in fast food cost as a temporary impost.

Also, some of the fast food containers can’t currently be recycled through traditional collection, sorting and reuse processes. Having a CDS for fast food packaging will most likely confuse those who already struggle in recycling properly and possibly would lead to greater contamination of the existing domestic and public recycling streams. I believe that many in the community would think that fast food items can be recycled as there is a CDS attached to them. The packaging will then end up in the recycling stream making existing recovered resources less valuable and harder to find markets for.

One potential part solution may be to introduce reusable containers, whereby customers for a small fee can buy reusable containers which can be taken back to the outlet an refilled (at a discount). While this is a potential solution, it is unlikely to impact the amount of littering of fast food packaging since the main reasons for littering is laziness and lack or nearby bins. Furthermore, it would take planning and effort to clean and return to the outlet with a reusable container…which the lazy would find possibly too much. I expect the fast food lawyers would also not support the reuse of containers due to potential contamination of their food from poorly cleaned containers…who would be responsible for health consequences?

Yes, I am aware of this study and it was undertaken to see how single use plastic bottle caps could be better managed to prevent their entry into waterways/oceans. The Dutch have a high recycling rate, which also occurred before the CDS was introduced. The Dutch, like the Japanese have limited land and historically have been far better at managing their limited resources than many other countries like Australia or the US.

From what I understand, the Dutch CDS is not dissimilar to other European CDS where the container refund machines are located at the places/stores where the containers were originally bought. Such placement facilities easier returns and deposit claims (effort is very low as one would be returning to the same store for more purchases and can easily return containers for deposits at the same time).

In Queensland, and my main criticism of the Queensland CDS, is that the refund centres are removed or some distance from where the product was purchased and it takes some (special) effort to return containers for a deposit. This significantly disadvantages the low socioeconomic, rural, elderly, less mobile etc groups within the community who will find it easier or more convenient to dispose of the container rather than return for a deposit. There will however be some who use the CDS to make more money tax free by bin diving to collect discarded containers (noting that there has been discussions in NSW and Qld about making bin diving illegal).

The Dutch are also different to Australia where there is a ban on household and business/commercial waste to landfill (unlike Australia) due to their highly restricted landfill space. This means the Dutch have to find alternative solutions for their household waste, namely, to recycle, reuse or to send for incineration.

The Dutch unfortunately can’t be compared to Australia as their drivers are quite different. Maybe if Australian local governments removed waste bins from residences, banned the landfilling of domestic waste, introduced and enforced severe illegal waste disposal, had CDS in retailers etc, we might be able to get close to the Dutch and use them for comparison purposes.


Yes, as I outlined above, there has been measures adopted to reduce the impact of packaging/containers in the fast food industry, such as removal of styrofoam food packaging. These are often done under the voluntary Australian Packaging Covenant…

Many of the main fast food industry players are members of the APCO. There has been industry discussion about making the covenant mandatory, but it has never had legs for a range of reasons.

It is possible to change the types of packaging used in the fast food industry, or even implement a mandatory reusable only food containers (as suggested in a previous post to @grahroll) , but this will not come without strong resistence from the food industry, government and consumers.

In a perfect world, one would not create any waste after visiting a fast food outlet (all packaging reusable for example), but currently there seems little chance of such occurring without significant (generational) changes to how the industry operates and what consumers expect. If the fast food industry is forced into such a space, it would affect the remainder of the food and beverage industry as they would also be directly or indirectly impacted.

Would it be a good thing, yes…will it happen in my life time…most ikely no as it would bring government regulation of all packaging (types, shapes, sizes, colours, materials used, etc). Such would normalise products and remove a lot of the packing (product) differentiation. While I would not necessarily care about such a change, many others with more say would.


I also just found information on the Geelong City Website of why people litter:

"The most common reasons or barriers for littering are:
* too lazy (24%)
* no ashtray (23%) or
* no bin (21%).

The first is a behaviour which is very difficult to change. The second relates to cars where individuals throw butts (the cigarette ones) from car windows and the thirds is the availability of bins.

This is why an earlier suggestion was to approach one’s local authority about the litter problem and ask for them to investigate if there are sufficient bins available to hopefully reduce the problem. Hopefully if there are sufficient bins, the first one may also be reduced (laziness) as the distance to a bin may not be an obstacle for many of the lazy ones.

A text worth reading which discusses how to overcome barriers to change individuals behaviours is Fostering Sustainable Behaviours: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing. It provides an insight to how to identify barriers and implement strategies to change the behaviour as a result of these barriers. While it may not work in all situations, it does give one some thought to successful approaches and the challenges involved.


One thing you’ve overlooked in your research is whether a container deposit scheme encourages people to pick up litter. I don’t have stats on it, but it’s possible that children or unemployed people can earn loose change collecting discarded rubbish.


I have often thought the same thing and I have been unable to find statistics. Most of the statistics seems to be on waste collected through say council personnel, road maintenance crews or community groups/events. Would 10 cents encourage someone who would not usually pick up litter, to pick up someone else’s litter to take home and dispose of properly…don’t know but maybe there would be a small effect.

I have tested our local area for fun and left some littered CDS containers on the ground for a few days to see if someone else n the area would pick it up…so far for the 3 or 4 times I have done such I haven’t had any success …but this is not to say there may be other areas which are different. My testing is for interest rather than a proper measured experiment. It would be something to do on a larger scale to see if there is an effect.

The area I have left littered containers is in high pedestrian area, near public transport and supermarket traffic and woild be seen by a significant number of pedestrians of varying ages. BTW…have also done similar tests pwhen living in China in public places…plastic single use water bottles would be picked up when I placed mine near a bin in less than a minute. In China at the time there are individuals whose only income is the collection and recycling of bottles. A plastic bottoe at the time had a worth of about 2 cents (10 jiao). A simple meal on the street at the time could be bought for about 3- 4 yuan…around 30-40 returned bottles.

I suspect that there will be a portion of litter which is picked up by other parties…which potentially results in the underestimate of littering behaviour. The statistics will bethe net litter left on the ground…after individuals like me pick it up to dispose of properly (and to ensure seen plastics don’t escape into the wild).

I remember as a child collecting reused softdrink bottles for the 20 cent return refund. In those days, 20 cents was a significant amount and could be used to buy some treats on the way home from school at the local corner shop.


In regards to informal collectors yes it has been looked at for reports. In NYC they call them “Canners”:

Benefit Value Direct Jobs Created - 3,275 FTE
Direct, Indirect and Induced Jobs Created - 5,726 FTE
Canners – Informal Collectors - 4,000-8,000 FTE (NYC only)
Commodity Value of Deposit Material - $55 million
Unclaimed Deposits - $134 million
Gross Value Add - $272 million
Tax Revenue - $14 million

" Informal Jobs – Canners

In many areas with deposit return systems there exists an informal network of “canners,” or scavengers who collect deposit containers from streets, public trash and curbside bins and return them to receive the deposit refund. These containers are a valuable source of income to those individuals. In New York, and especially New York City, this population is especially large, given the dense nature of the environment.

At a redemption center in Brooklyn, New York City, an annual average of 10 million containers pass through the center, returned exclusively by canners. On a given day, approximately 100 individuals may visit the center, and they support a network of over 700 canners with only 4 full time and 2 part time staff. The founder of the center believes that there could be up to 10,000 canners in the City.

In this report, the number of containers passing through redemption centers was used to calculate the number of canners with the assumption that an average canner can collect 1,000 containers per day. Based on this information, we estimated that there are 7,632 canners in New York City, if they work half the days of the year, or 3,816 FTE. This range begins to attempt to quantify the size of a marginalized community who positively contribute to both the economy and the environment, while sustaining themselves through the deposit return system."