Press release

Spring clean for England’s motorways

England’s motorways are getting a spring clean as part of a nationwide event.

Traffic operatives clearing litter

Highways England has joined forces with Keep Britain Tidy and has been taking part in its Great British Spring Clean.

Around 200,000 bags of litter are collected every year from the motorway network.

This month Highways England and its teams all over the country have collected an additional 8,129 bags of litter, despite the severe weather.

Some of the unusual items collected include push bikes, fridges, settees, wallets and a bin full of rubbish collected from the A1(M).

This video gives a first-hand account of what it is like collecting litter from the side of the motorway network.

Great British Spring Clean March 2018

Highways England’s head of customer and operational requirements, Freda Rashdi, said:

We are pleased to be able to support the Great British Spring Clean by organising litter picking activities across the country, especially at our key hotspot areas.

We already collect vast amounts of litter from motorways every year but we’d much rather be spending our time carrying out other essential maintenance work.

The litter on our roads can cause a hazard to drivers, our workers and wildlife, so I’d urge everyone to keep a bag in their car which they can use for rubbish, and then put it in the bin when they get home to improve the experience of all drivers who use our roads.

Highways England has also released a time-lapse video showing the build-up of litter at junction 2 of the M606 near Bradford – a known litter hotspot.

Tackling litter on England’s major roads - timelapse

The video features ‘grab-cam’ footage where a camera was secured to a litter grabber to show a few of the thousands of individual pieces of litter collected every year.

Allison Ogden Newton, chief executive at Keep Britain Tidy said:

I’m delighted that Highways England has joined forces with us to support this year’s campaign. It is shocking that people still think its ok to throw litter from a vehicle, which creates substantial additional cost for Highways England, threatens other road users and harms the wildlife that lives in our roadside verges.

I’m really looking forward to working with Highways England to clean up our roads and inspire many more people to use a bin or simply take their rubbish home.

  • over 200,000 sacks of litter are collected by our contractors every year - that’s around 550 bags every day or 110 bags per mile of Highways England motorway network
  • at approximately £40 per bag – roughly the same cost as fixing a pothole – it’s not cheap and could be best spent on other maintenance projects
  • 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
  • Highways England is responsible for collecting litter from motorways. Local authorities are responsible for the management of litter on all-purpose trunk roads. For further information please look at our Litter Strategy.

General enquiries

Members of the public should contact the Highways England customer contact centre on 0300 123 5000.

Media enquiries

Journalists should contact the Highways England press office on 0844 693 1448 and use the menu to speak to the most appropriate press officer.

Published 29 March 2018