Why McDonald's offer to put bins on 'disgusting' Sheffield street was rejected

It’s a leafy street rising just south of Sheffield city centre, but one which is sadly plagued by ‘disgusting’ levels of fast food junk.

Thursday, 10th October 2019, 15:35 pm
Updated Monday, 14th October 2019, 16:00 pm

So why when McDonald’s offered to install and empty bins on streets including Norfolk Park Road – where none exist – was the fast food giant ultimately rebuffed?

The story only came to light after litter pickers voiced their frustration about the amount of rubbish strewn across the narrow street beside Norfolk Heritage Park, which they said builds up again almost as quickly as they can bag it up.

Litter on Norfolk Park Road in Sheffield (pic: Ant Clifford)

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Councillor Douglas Johnson, Green Party member for Sheffield’s City ward, told how the manager of the McDonald’s drive-through on Farm Road had approached him just last year saying he wanted to do something about littering by his customers following numerous complaints.

Coun Johnson said the fast food boss proposed to supply and empty five litter bins – two each on Farm Road and Granville Road, and one on Norfolk Park Road.

But Sheffield Council rejected the offer, he revealed, due to concerns about what would happen should the bins be damaged or emptied too rarely, or should the restaurant close.

Council officers instead suggested McDonald’s could either pay the council’s waste contractor Amey to provide new bins, which Amey would empty, or sponsor existing ones – neither of which it is understood to have done.

Coun Johnson said: “I was disappointed by the lack of imagination shown by council officers who couldn’t get over this obstacle and consider how to take advantage of what was being offered, especially at a time when the council was cutting back on its street cleaning.”

Ant Clifford, who as a member of the Friends of Sheaf Valley Park regularly carries out litter picks in the area and is appalled by the amount of fast food waste there, claims new bins are badly needed.

“Norfolk Park Road’s the first place many people stop after going to McDonald’s, and they eat their food there before throwing the rubbish out of their car window,” said the 44-year-old father-of-four, who runs a digital agency.

“As soon as you clean up the litter on that road, it’s back again. It’s really frustrating.

“It’s a shame people are disrespectful enough they can’t be bothered to take their rubbish home but I feel if there was a bin near the road where cars can pull in pretty much opposite the park entrance then people might use it.

“I feel the council doesn’t want to put more bins in here because it will have to pay Amey to empty those bins. It feels like everyone’s passing the buck.”

Linda Ball, who is a member of Sheffield Litter Pickers and the Friends of Sheaf Valley Park, said: “When we do litter picks along there we can easily end up with 25-30 bags full of rubbish, at least 90 per cent of which is fast food wrappers and containers. It’s disgusting.

“It’s a really long stretch of road without any bins. I’m not saying putting in bins would necessarily solve things, as you’re relying on people actually using them, but when we’ve done litter picks there’s not even a bin we can leave the bags next to ready for collection, which is quite a poor state of affairs.

“I know the staff at that McDonald’s and they try their best to keep it clean round there, but they can’t send people out every day to pick litter.”

A spokeswoman for McDonald’s said: “We are committed to being a good neighbour within the local community and we’d be open to further discussing any concerns with residents, and working with the council to help find a resolution.

“We take the issue of litter very seriously; we complete daily litter picks in the areas surrounding our restaurants, collecting others’ rubbish as well as our own and recently conducted a volunteer-led litter pick in Sheffield town centre in September.”

There are 2,741 public litter bins on streets across Sheffield, which are emptied by Amey as part of its Streets Ahead contract with the council.

Councillor Mark Jones, Sheffield Council’s cabinet member for the environment, said: “We have been in contact with Coun Johnson on several occasions and explained the options available to McDonald’s, which would ultimately help improve litter levels around Norfolk Park Road. As part of these discussions, we outlined two approaches that could help to resolve the accumulation of litter arising from its restaurant on nearby Farm Road.

“We’re not aware of any direct contact from McDonald’s, and since putting these options forward neither Coun Johnson nor McDonald’s has come back to us to progress this. We are very keen to meet with them to discuss how we resolve this issue and have already offered to do so in previous communications to Coun Johnson.

“We are totally supportive of all initiatives to combat litter across the city, and particularly encouraging of businesses who want to take responsibility for the areas around their premises. In fact, as part of our Clean Sheffield campaign we have worked alongside a number of businesses who have pledged to do just that. It is important for local councillors to work with businesses whenever possible and if we want to help McDonald’s, we must first talk with them.

“Combatting litter remains a top priority for the council and since January 2019, the council has issued 1,290 Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN’s) to tackle the minority of people who continue to drop litter.

“In addition to the routine street cleaning undertaken by Amey on a continuous basis, they are also working closely with voluntary groups and local schools to deliver their education programme to promote behaviour change around litter disposal.”