A Keep Britain Tidy branded litter survey has revealed that the company's burger wrappers and drinks cartons are more likely to be strewn on Britain's streets than any other.
The snapshot survey of 10 city centres and suburbs/out-of-town locations across England found that MacDonald's packaging makes up a quarter of all fast food litter (29%), the most discarded items included burger wrappers, condiment sachets and plastic straws.
The Keep Britain Tidy surveyors - who spent two days observing fast food litter in Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Leicester, Birmingham, Bristol, Southampton and London - reported that Greggs, Starbucks and Subway also had a high gutter share. Big franchises were not the only businesses criticised, however, with local chip and kebab shops responsible for 21% of all fast food litter.
In response to the survey, Keep Britain Tidy yesterday delivered its branded litter survey to the chief executives of the companies named. In an accompanying letter, Keep Britain Tidy urged the companies to take more responsibility for what happens to fast food and packaging taken away from premises. It suggested that companies should reduce unnecessary packaging, make eating-in more attractive by reducing prices for customers who stay on the premises, increase anti-litter signage, offer incentives to customers who return packaging and put more bins at strategic points.
Phil Barton, Keep Britain Tidy chief executive, said: "This is the very first time we have looked at which brands make up littered England. Of the 10 cities surveyed, the same brands appeared again and again.
"We condemn litterers for dropping this fast food litter in the first place, but also believe the results have pertinent messages for the fast food industry. McDonald's, the local chip shop, Greggs, KFC and Subway need to do more to discourage littering by their customers."
Barton added that, with fast food making up a quarter of all litter found on Britain's streets, fast food chains must play a more active role in delivering an anti-litter message at point of sale.
"McDonald's has anti-litter logos on packaging, provides litter bins and runs litter patrols. However, McDonald's litter remains all too prevalent on our streets and we'd like the company to do more to tackle the problem," he said.
"We want all fast food chains to reduce unnecessary packaging and make it easier for customers to do the right thing."
Recent university research suggests that fast food businesses could be suffering financially, due to their association with litter. A study carried out by Dr Stuart Roper at Manchester Business School, The University of Manchester and Professor Cathy Parker at Manchester Metropolitan University revealed that seeing litter with a company's brand can negatively affect the public perception of that brand.
Professor Parker said: "There is, therefore, a good commercial reason why fast food operators should take more of an interest in what happens to their packaging once it leaves their premises."