Every year Highways England says it spends £8 million clearing 200,000 sacks of litter from our main roads. As well as costing money, it says removing roadside rubbish puts workers’ lives at risk. That’s because contractors must stand close to speeding cars to pick up people’s junk.
In an effort to solve the problem, a pair of schemes involving new litter bins are being tested. But are they common sense or gimmicks? We investigate.
What are the drive-through litter bins?
Imagine a large orange funnel beside the road. These are being positioned at the exit to motorway services. The idea is that when drivers leave the services, they can open their car window and chuck their litter into the funnel. The hope is they’ll do this rather than dumping their rubbish out of the window on the road.
Where will these new bins be?
The new bins are being trialled across the north west of the UK. The first are on Lymm Services which is at the junction of the M6 and M56 in Cheshire. They are aimed at cars, with taller ones for trucks. And they will be available for right and left-hand drive vehicles.
What about recycling bins?
Maidstone and Folkstone Services on the M20 in Kent are launching the country’s first ever recycling reward bins. When drivers throw away a recyclable drinks bottle or coffee cup, they receive a 5p voucher.
The initiative has come from environmental charity Hubbub. It wants to measure the litter that’s collected at the end of a six-month period. It will then assess how hazardous the litter would be to wildlife. The trial will run until November 2018.
Will the schemes work?
Highways England claims that a 10-week trial at a services on the M3 in Winchester, Hants in 2017 saw a 25 per cent reduction of litter on the ground. While the schemes would seem to make perfect common sense, experts are sceptical.
Founder of Clean Up Britain, John Read claimed: “This appears to be a low-cost gimmick to try to pretend that Highways England is doing something about the massive problem of litter on motorways. Highways England just needs to do its job properly and keep the entire motorway network clear of litter, not just 25 so-called ‘hotspots’. The reality is that virtually the entire network is a litter hotspot.”
Clean Up Britain also has concerns that some drivers will chuck their rubbish out and miss the bins. And it points out that many drivers buy food at services to eat in transit. Providing new bins at services, it says, won’t address the major problem of litter being thrown from moving vehicles.
Does picking up litter cost lives?
A Freedom of Information Act enquiry by Clean Highways in 2017 discovered that over the past 10 years 50 workers had been injured at the roadside in the UK. And 12 road workers including two traffic officers had lost their life. However, none had been involved in litter picking when they were killed or injured.
Clean Highways is adamant that using worker safety as a reason for not picking up litter, which Highways England has done, is not a valid excuse. Peter Silverman who’s behind the campaigning group revealed that local authority spending on street cleaning fell in 2017. It was down by 12 per cent and is slated to fall further in 2018. He added: “Spending on ‘hairdressing and beauty treatments’ increased by 8 per cent from £187 to £202 per annum per household. Why do we spend nearly seven times as much on hairdressing as on street cleaning?”