- in Environment
An increase in littering since fast food outlets began to reopen is “disappointing”, some councils and Keep Wales Tidy have said.
It follows a “wonderful” few weeks of “no rubbish anywhere”, Keep Wales Tidy said.
But it added public anger at littering had also increased after people spent time getting to know their local area during their daily exercise.
The charity said that anger could be used to fuel a permanent change.
“For the first few weeks of lockdown everything was wonderful. There was no rubbish anywhere,” said Louise Tambini, Keep Wales Tidy’s deputy chief executive.
“Unfortunately, as we’ve been allowed to come out for longer and to stay out, some people have begun leaving litter everywhere.
“We’ve had a lot more complaints… about litter being left in our parks and beaches.”
Ms Tambini said she hoped anger on social media at piles of rubbish on beaches and beauty spots could result in permanent changes, with more people picking up litter if they saw it.
“Hopefully, if nothing else, it’s made people talk about it more, to be angry about it and not accept it.”
Environment ‘Fast food and littering go hand in hand’
A petition has been started by the Blaenau Gwent branch of Plaid Cymru to print vehicle registration numbers on takeaway packaging to discourage littering – and has received about 3,000 signatures.
Llyr Gruffydd MS said: “The recent increase in littering across Wales has been a concern and a point of frustration for many people across Wales, including for many of my own constituents.
“It seems that fast food and littering tends to go hand in hand, and we need long-term solutions to tackling this issue.”
Jemma Bere, Keep Wales Tidy’s policy and research manager, said enforcement was complex and can take up a lot of time and resources – and must be done in conjunction with educating people.
“Research shows us that people are more likely to act responsibly if there is a visible connection to them and the potential crime,” she added.
The Welsh Government said littering was not acceptable, and it was developing a new prevention plan which included enforcement measures.
Traffic Wales tweeted a warning after photographing some litter on the side of the road, saying: “Takeaway packaging makes up a significant amount of litter on our roads.
“With more drive-thrus starting to re-open across Wales, please remember to give your litter a lift and take it home with you.”
While some councils said they had not seen any increase, others said they had to deploy extra cleaners – even if they had not sealed any bins as part of lockdown.
Powys council said there had been a significant reduction in litter during lockdown but just four hours after the McDonalds in Newtown reopened, bins were already overflowing and the council issued a fixed penalty notice to one offender.
In Blaenau Gwent, an increase was noticed particularly in roadside litter and car parks, and the council had to deploy extra cleaning crews at weekends.
“This is disappointing and creates additional work for the council when the focus is on delivering priority services and supporting our most vulnerable residents at this time,” a spokesman said.
Flintshire council said: “Our cleansing teams are starting to see increases in litter across the county as more and more people are out and about and more businesses open.
Monmouthshire council had also seen an increase since drive through facilities re-opened last week, but added that it was “too early to see if this is a blip or a return to how things were prior to lockdown.”
Meanwhile, a Torfaen spokeswoman said: “Since the reopening of fast food outlets, disappointingly, we have seen an increase in litter, to the detriment of our environment.”
And in Merthyr Tydfil, problems at the leisure village were being addressed by the land owner and the McDonald’s manager is sending his team out to litter pick daily.
Conwy council said there had been an increase there too.
Dr Christian Dunn, an expert in micro-plastics from Bangor University, said even small changes to littering stretched far beyond it being an eyesore.
“What you may think of as just anti-social problem could have larger, bigger problems than you can actually even imagine,” he said.
“If you throw your plastic water bottle away then ultimately that piece of plastic could break up into smaller and smaller pieces.
“And the issue is we don’t know the full effects of those micro plastics. Research is being done to show that a little piece of plastic can leak certain chemicals which can be harmful.”
Environment What do litter pickers say?
Sarah Pratt, a member of the Mold Plastic Reduction steering group, said: “I borrowed a litter picker from Mold Town Council and picked up half a bin bag of rubbish by the River Alyn.
“Most prevalent was poo bags, both full and empty. Quite a few polystyrene cups. McDonalds was the most frequent brand.”
And Laura Fielding, a member of a litter pick group in Llanfairfechan, Conwy county, said some litter bins being sealed up during lockdown has contributed to the issue.
“People can’t be bothered to carry them home or to a different bin,” she said.