Littering is a serious problem in the UK, with the equivalent of 200,000 sacks of rubbish dropped every year. As well as spoiling beauty spots and harming wildlife, dropped rubbish is a potential hazard to other motorists, and costly to the taxpayer.
Highways England, the body responsible for maintaining England’s motorways and A roads, says road litter costs the British taxpayer an average of £8 million a year. It picks up 550 sacks of rubbish every day from the road network, at a cost of £40 per bag, this money could be spent on improving the infrastructure, as £40 is also the cost of repairing a pothole.
In a new initiative, specially designed litter bins are being placed at strategic hotspots, encouraging motorists to dispose of their rubbish responsibly.
The bright orange bins, already in use in Europe, have a wide, funnel shaped opening set at a convenient height for car windows, so drivers do not need to leave their vehicle, just pull up next to the bin and dispose of it. There is also a taller version aimed at HGV drivers. Highways England has identified 25 litter hot spots on A roads and motorways throughout the country.
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Service areas and slip roads tend to be the spots where new and used car drivers take the opportunity to clear out the glove compartment or footwell, so these are the places to be targeted by the scheme. The scheme will roll out at 25 service areas in the northwest of England, starting with Lymm services in Cheshire. A trial at Winchester services earlier in the year resulted in a 25% reduction in littering, and it is to be hoped this success will continue.
Dropping litter from a vehicle already carries a fine, but it can be difficult to prove the offence has occurred. Under a proposed change to the law, the penalty could increase to £150, payable if there is reasonable certainty the offence was committed. Some road users feel that stricter measures are needed, and that Highways England should be doing more to prevent the problem and remove litter.
If littering incurred penalty points, affecting a driver’s insurance policy, it is possible motorists would take more care to use a bin.