Saturday, 17 September 2011

Litter and McDonalds

A few days ago I took our car to the garage for its annual inspection. Going to the garage meant going past the local McDonalds, and... well, there's a story to be told:

In the past, people have asked me why it is that there is so little litter on the streets and cycle-paths in our photos and videos from Assen. They're not completely clear of litter but they are swept regularly which helps a great deal. But in general you see little litter because in comparison with other places that I'd lived, relatively little is dropped here. In part this comes by providing somewhere to put it. Cyclepaths have bins on them, into which most litter from children and teenagers gets thrown (some miss, of course, so you also see some next to these bins), and that helps a lot.

Some of the rubbish is in the bin, the
rest is on the ground.
However, the area around this particular fast food restaurant is a bit different. My commuting route passes quite nearby and I've often seen what people do after going through the drive-through: The car window opens, and out comes packaging and quite often food and drink as well. I can only assume that people find it isn't quite so tasty as the advertisements suggest is is. I don't understand why people do this, but reading around the internet leads me to believe that throwing stuff through car windows is a common reaction world-wide to buying food from McDonalds.

Now I'd not want to make any accusations against a company known to be as litigious as McDonalds, so I'd better make it clear that of course I'm sure they're completely innocent of any wrong-doing. But when I looked for it and took photos of it, there did still seem to be an awful lot of rubbish from this fast food joint spread out over the whole 4 km back home from the garage by bike:



In my opinion, it's a very good thing that McDonalds is located only in the outskirts of the city and not in the centre. While this results in litter reaching in a line from where the fast food is bought along the cycle-paths to where it is consumed, this at least indicates that many of the people who buy and eat this stuff are actually getting some exercise at the same time.

18 comments:

scruss said...

David, I saw the same thing when a McD's opened in Kirkintilloch a decade back. They would only clear rubbish within 100m of the store, yet we were seeing new trash several kilometres away. They wouldn't take responsibility for the trash in any way.

Anonymous said...

I think you might put this on facebook 'dislike mcdonalds litter'. it will go viral!

highwayman said...

Much of this is attitude. People can hold the wrappings until either the next rubbish bin or when they get home. It requires barely an iota of effort. It matters not if it's McDonald's, Burger King, or any other fast-food joint --international or local.

McDonald's is right to clean within 100 metres from the store. That's their jurisdiction. It's up to people beyond that to clean up after themselves.

People can easily comply with the hiker's credo: "Pack it in; leave no trace." Some nagging is in order.

lofidelitybicycleclub said...

Funnily enough, the town where I went to school (Farnham, Surrey) took the decision a while ago to deny permission for any fast food outlets (I believe on grounds of litter, potential after-pub anti social behaviour and because the centre of town is Georgian and pretty - although it would be even nicer with less traffic thundering through it). They don't have any of the litter problems that neighbouring towns do.

Paul Martin said...

They are ruthless, no matter what image they try and portray. I find it nauseating that they sponsor so many junior sporting clubs here in Australia... and worse, supporting children with illnesses - the cynic in me is not impressed.

I saw a news story last night on the television about how some US cities are seeing their public services and building shut (libraries, civic halls, schools, etc) yet these organisations continue to do business. They are slowly be coming the only places where people can meet - it is no accident that fast food venues have tidy gardens and clean playgrounds... and free wifi.

More privatisation of public space. It's not just the food they dish out that is unhealthy for society...

Green Idea Factory said...

Guilty! It's advertising from McDonalds, of course! But they're not paying for it, YOU are.

Jon Bendtsen said...

Throwing food at the ground should be punished harsher than throwing trash that can not be eaten because the food will be eaten by pests, most likely rats and flying "rats" (pigeons) and we do not want to make it easier for pests to survive.

Alex Taylor said...

It's not directly McDonald's fault, but the kind of clientele they attract. When the McDonald's opened here in Newark, I can clearly remember seeing car park spaces in a public park about a mile away having spaces surrounded by car-shaped outlines of McDonald's-branded litter. Imagine four people in car had parked up, eaten their awful bland food, then chucked it out of their nearest window before driving away.

I'd imagine that McDonald's would much rather these people didn't do this as it negatively affects their corporate image, but this is what a car-full of late teens deems acceptable behaviour, unfortunately.

kfg said...

"Behind every great fortune there is a great crime," - The Oil Barons: Men of Greed and Grandeur (1971) by Richard O'Connor, attributed to Balzac.

Behind every great philanthropy there is a great fortune; and an attempt to buy absolution.

Green Idea Factory said...

@Alex, it is almost entirely McDonalds's fault, i.e. they know what happens and can change it -- in that sense they bear a higher proportion of burden then e.g. a petrol supplier does in all the destruction caused by mainly private automobiles, because when one gets hit etc. by a automobile, the branding of the petrol supplier is not known*.

I really do think it is intentional advertising and only contributes negatively to the perception of people who do not go there regularly.

By the way, they sponsor the "bicycle hub" (parking and showers, etc.) in Chicago and used to sponsor bike share schemes in Switzerland.

*Perhaps it would be a good idea if after a crash caused by a private auto the reporter or police had to report "The motorist last filled up at at the new McDonalds Drive Thru-Petrol Station-Bike Station" (http://www.copenhagenize.com/2011/09/bicycle-care-station-by-statoil.html)

mightywhites said...

Paper on the pavements, cars crawling in the road ... (Motorway City, Hawkwind)

Frits B said...

McD is hardly to blame, it's their customers who leave all the litter. I walk into town along a cycle path with rubbish bins at both ends, and yet the roadsides are full of empty cans, beer and "energy drinks". I pick up most of them if I feel like it and put them into the bins, but this is apparently a matter of education and attitude.

Green Idea Factory said...

@Frits B: Why defend this insanely huge and profitable yet unsustainable company? People of course do have some self-control, but by your logic those petrol companies are also not complicit in e.g. tailpipe emissions (to further my "responsibility-labelling" concept, exhaust causes could be traced back to their source via some kind of nano-technology....ha ha, it is impossible to do that, and so we suffer the results as the suppliers dance in the black.)

Frits B said...

@GIF: I don't defend McDonald's, I have never even been to one in all of my 72 years (unsavoury, vegetarian - mind the comma), but it's really the customers who leave all the rubbish. People buy stuff for consumption on the road and simply throw the wrappers away wherever they happen to be, in this case usually near the place of purchase. And as McD's are rather successful in their line of business, the results of their trade are only too visible along the road. It would help if people were taught the purpose of rubbish bins. Not that difficult. Even McD's provides them.

Green Idea Factory said...

The customers are paying to advertise McDonalds. OK, I realise this needs some further research but producers always bear some responsibility. McDonalds does not want its own premises to look messy and they want to fool the world into thinking they give a damn about it.

Clark in Vancouver said...

They of course are in business to make money and they don't claim otherwise but I do find that McDonalds does respond to criticism. In Canada at least they've moved to less packaging and have introduced low-fat items on their menu, both in response to criticisms. I think that's good.
I remember there being a lot of litter in the ditches when I was a kid. There was an anti-littering campaign and they provided small plastic garbage bags that hooked onto a knob in your car. Some people saw it as a huge attack on their right to throw things out the window but then got over that and it became normal to not throw things out the window eventually.
But again, this is Canada and people are pretty civilized.

Anonymous said...

Litter around a take away forms rings, in the UK we have the inner ring of litter discarded by pedestrians, and then an outer ring created by those in cars. I suppose in NL there is a middle ring from naughty cyclists.

Mark Garrett, Bristol UK

Anonymous said...

Good post... "I'm loving it." It would be cool if next time you geotag your photos - picasa will then show a map.