Scale of roadside litter problem revealed

New statistics from Highways England have revealed that an average 83 bags of litter are collected on each mile of motorway every year.

In the run up to the Great British Spring Clean, 3 to 5 March, Highways England has revealed exactly what rubbish drivers have to put up with when people throw bottles, cups, half-eaten burgers, cigarettes, newspapers and random items from their vehicles.

  • Over 150,000 sacks of litter are collected by our contractors every year
  • That’s 411 bags every day
  • Or 83 bags per mile of Highways England motorway network
  • At £40 per bag – roughly the same cost as fixing a pothole – it’s not cheap. The cost is due to the additional challenges of litter-picking on fast roads without pedestrian access
  • Hundreds of lives are put at risk in collisions caused by items in the carriageway, or items that land on windscreens
  • Thousands of punctures are caused by sharp items
  • Litter causes a threat to wildlife and leads to flooding if drains become blocked
  • It also puts workers who are collecting the rubbish from the side of busy motorways at risk
  • a plastic bottle, if not collected, can take 450 years to biodegrade.

Customer Service Director Melanie Clarke said, “Cleaning motorways is expensive and time-consuming, and it is the innocent drivers who suffer. The money needed to clear litter comes out of their pockets and they are the ones who suffer the consequences if an item of litter causes a puncture, or a collision which closes a carriageway.

“The statistics show what a tax littering imposes on drivers who would not dream of such behaviour.

“We constantly have teams out cleaning our roads. As we approach the Great British Spring Clean we’re encouraging all road users to dispose of their litter properly and improve the experience of all drivers who use our roads.”

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litter & debris are a danger potentially causes of swerve to avoid, puncture and fire incidents. Contractors are paid a lump-sum to address these but appear to have abandoned or reduced their duty due to the zero-carriageway-crossing policy; it now costs to pick debris and litter from the central reservation as traffic management is required… the protection of contractor staff is admirable, but what about safe-guarding motorists?
Ironically, if a collision occurs due to debris or litter, the contractor will attend to repair, put in place traffic management and clean the location … possibly billing the driver, fleet operator or their insurer for doing … the very task we have already paid for.

Debris may cost a lot to remove and it is good at last to hear that Highways England accept it is a danger to road users, but what of central reservations? Why are tax moneys being taken for central reservation cleaning which is no longer occurring … until the debris, causing a collision that results in damage, be can cleaned up as the repair occurs?