Published: 17:02, 29 May 2020
| Updated: 17:16, 29 May 2020
During lockdown, it has been easy to see the impact fast food chains have on the amount of litter in Kent.
And following KFC's relaunch of its drive-thru facilities earlier this month, many have noticed the rise in wrappers being abandoned at roadsides.
Now there are fears the littering could return with full force when other drive-thrus - including McDonald's which has already reopened some sites in Kent - welcome customers again.
The post-lockdown surge has sparked an online petition asking fast food restaurants to print car registration plates on packaging to deter flytipping.
Even on the first day of KFC coming back, piles of litter appeared in Ashford when the Eureka Leisure Park branch reopened.
Residents posted pictures online of rubbish strewn near the Brakes factory in Nicholas Road on the second day of Eureka Park's KFC branch reopening.
Since then, more reports have emerged of littering hotspots.
Aniko Szocs, a member of the Keep Ashford Clean group, shared a picture of a pile of roadside rubbish on the group's Facebook page.
She told KentOnline: "It’s really sad - during the lockdown period fast food-related litter was almost zero.
"That has immediately changed once the fast food outlets opened, and many litter picking groups are campaigning to see fast food chains taking more responsibility for the packaging they use and tackling the litter.
"I would like to see some educational campaigns from them to show what happens to the litter once it is in the environment, but we yet to see any serious actions from them."
Mrs Szocs also supported the petition to have registration numbers printed on the box.
Her feelings are shared by a large number of people including Ed Smythe, who didn't single out fast food spots as the only culprit for the increased amount of mess.
He said: "There has been a marked increase in littering since the lockdown measures were relaxed.
"I pick up litter out of habit when I’m out with my dog.
"During the time we were only allowed out once a day the volume of litter on our normal routes dropped dramatically which was wonderful to see.
"As soon as the restrictions were relaxed it became worse than it ever has been; discarded portable BBQs, food and drink packaging, fast food packaging and evidence of discarded picnics are commonplace now.
"People who rarely went out previously are now discovering our fantastic open spaces, but unfortunately aren’t showing the respect they should be.
"People who are already environmentally conscious will inevitably notice the same increase as I have, but the culprits will not see the damage they are causing until they are held accountable."
Ashford MP Damian Green echoes the frustration of residents, stating: "Littering is always a disgrace, because it is always unnecessary.
"At this time it is particularly bad behaviour when creating unnecessary work for others is really unacceptable."
Ashford Borough Council, which is responsible for handling issues surrounding littering, has noted a decreased amount of reports and praised the current use of waste receptacles.
The authority has also committed to raising public awareness of littering and maintaining the cleanliness of public spaces.
A council spokesman said: “We have observed that the level of litter in the borough is less, but there is an increased use of litter bins in park areas due to the larger number of residents walking.
"In more general terms, we conduct localised and also Kent-wide campaigns across the districts organised through the Kent Resource Partnership and we will be conducting further campaigns around littering and dog fouling shortly.”
More by this authorCharlie Harman
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