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Last Updated: Wednesday, 29 October, 2003, 01:18 GMT
Fast food outlets told to clean up
Litter from fast food has increased since last year
Fast food outlets are being urged to clean up the litter dropped by customers or face legislation.

The government wants outlets, from burger chains to chip shops, to voluntarily tidy up their litter.

Environmental campaigners have welcomed the move, announced as figures suggest fast food rubbish has increased.

The litter is spreading through the countryside and has led to an increase in Britain's rat population.

Drive-through restaurants are particularly highlighted by the Keep Britain Tidy campaign.

The campaign's chief executive, Alan Woods, said: "We're finding burger cartons, pizza boxes and plastic cups away from the high street, on our roads and dumped in the countryside.

"Much of that rubbish has to have come from the drive-throughs and its time they, rather than the British taxpayer, forked out something to clean it up."

Rat food

A Keep Britain Tidy study suggested fast food packaging on the streets has grown by 12% since last year, with snack wrappers rising by 11%.

Pieces of pizza, half-eaten burgers and other food also increased by 7% - eagerly eaten up by the swelling rat population.

In contrast, levels of builder's rubbish, household trash and dog fouling has fallen.

Junked fast food was found on 18% more main roads than last year and on 14% more rural roads.

Who wants to buy food from a trashy take-away?
Alan Woods
Keep Britain Clean

There was also an 11% rise in rubbish found in out-of-town areas.

Environmental Quality Minister Alun Michael, outlining the proposals on Wednesday, said fast food outlets would have to keep the area around their shop litter free and work with the council to make sure other areas were cleaned up weekly.

The outlets are being asked to agree to the proposals voluntarily and if they do not agree, the Government may have to consider legislation to close them down.

Retailers will be asked to provide bins for their customers to use and publicise the anti-litter message on posters.

Restaurants will also be encouraged to put their rubbish out only when collections are due, to avoid rats and mice gnawing the sacks.

Council powers

Keep Britain Tidy wants the law made easier so that councils can prosecute filthy fast food outlets.

It said that while 74% of fast food outlets maintain they regularly pick up rubbish outside their shops, 97% of streets are strewn with litter.

Mr Woods said: "While it is their lazy customers who must bear the brunt of the blame, take-aways have got to do much better.

"The British public thinks fast food filth is messy, difficult to clean up and downright offensive, so if nothing else it's in the interests of owners to keep it clean.

"I mean, who wants to buy food from a trashy take-away?"

The BBC's Wyre Davies
"The government wants to make restaurants and takeaways more responsible for rubbish"

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