Road Litter Shown the Red Light

Littering from vehicles is a major problem throughout Scotland - more than 53,000 bags of rubbish are cleared from central Scotland’s motorways every year, costing as much to remove as it would to fill 2,500 pot holes!  But today, 28 October 2010, the Scottish Transport Litter Group* launched an attack on this filthy habit, by organising the first ever Transport Litter Day, which aims to tackle the roadside litter that ruins the appearance of our verges and slip roads and can pose a risk to road users and the environment.

29 Oct 10

The Transport Litter Day has brought a number of organisations, all with an interest in improving the aesthetics and safety of our motorways and other roads, together to reduce the amount of litter thrown from vehicles onto Scottish roadsides.

The day was launched at the east bound Harthill service station, operated by BP, where Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, joined members of the Transport Litter Group as they enlisted the support of motorists in the battle against roadside litter.

Mr Lochhead said, “The cost of clearing central Scotland’s motorways alone could fill 2,500 pot holes every year. 

“In the tough times ahead, careless behaviour such as littering, which is estimated to cost £100 million each year, really cannot be tolerated – it is a criminal offence. The money spent by local authorities removing rubbish from streets and roads could be much better spent if we all work towards putting a stop to careless littering. I strongly encourage local authorities and police to use the powers given to them to penalise anyone contributing to what already is a needless blight on our glorious Scottish landscape.”

Meanwhile, across the country a number of other activities took place to help change people’s littering habits.  Local authority enforcement officers are supporting the Transport Litter Day by carrying out educational and enforcement activities - issuing those caught littering from vehicles with £50 fixed penalty notices; overhead road signs will start displaying anti-litter messages linked to the safety of workers engaged in litter clearance, and Transport Scotland contractors will work in partnership with the local authorities to carry out high profile litter clearance.

Stickers for litter bins, operational vehicles and private cars are also being distributed across the country, asking people to ‘Keep our roads litter free’. Zero Waste Scotland’s Carole Noble, who chairs the Transport Litter Group said, “Throwing litter from a vehicle is not only a disgusting habit which turns our roadsides and slip roads into a mess of fast food litter, cigarette butts, drinks cans and bottles, it can also be very dangerous for other road users, particularly motorcyclists, who can be distracted or even hit by the items.

“Everyone can help clean up our roads, improve safety, and redirect money to improve road maintenance, by taking the simple step of having a bag, or portable bin, in their vehicle on journeys to put waste in until a bin or recycling point can be used.” 

Councillor Alison Hay, COSLA's Regeneration and Sustainable Development Spokesperson said, “COSLA is pleased to support the first Transport Litter Day of Action. It is only by constantly raising the issue of litter and its visual and environmental impact that we can have any hope of shifting bad behaviour habits and actively engage the public in combating this problem.

“Local authorities spend large amounts of money picking up and tackling litter issues and, at a time of severe financial constraint, costs could easily be avoided through better public behaviour, which would not only improve the environment but allow much needed investment of these funds in the delivery of front-line services”.

Colin Mackenzie, Amey’s unit manager for south west Scotland said, “Litter is a real issue across the motorway network but slip roads often bear the brunt as drivers slow up and toss their fast food wrappers, crisp packets, apple cores and juice bottles from their cars.  As a result Amey collects an astounding 33,000 bags of rubbish each year from motorway verges in South West Scotland alone totalling over 160 tonnes – the weight of 23 double decker busses or 54 Hummers, and using nearly 14,000 valuable man-hours.  We appeal to drivers; don’t tip on your trip, take your litter home!”

John Murphy, BEAR Scotland's Deputy Managing Director said, “BEAR Scotland fully supports the Litter Day of Action.  Our litter picking teams work throughout the year collecting over 20,000 bags of litter. During these operations our teams are exposed to the dangers of working on motorway verges and central reservations therefore any initiative which can reduce the risk to our employees is welcome from a safety as well as an environmental prospective”.

Notes For Editors

  • Zero Waste Scotland works with businesses, communities, individuals and local authorities to help them reduce waste, recycle more and use resources sustainably.
  • Zero Waste Scotland is funded by the Scottish Government to support the delivery of its Zero Waste Plan.
  • More information on all Zero Waste Scotland’s programmes can be found at
  • The Transport Litter Group was formed following a Litter Summit held by the Cabinet Secretary in November 2008.  It brings together a variety of organisations with an interest in roadside litter; including: Transport Scotland, CoSLA, Road Haulage Association Ltd, AMEY, BEAR Scotland, Transerve, British Transport Police, Keep Scotland Beautiful, Zero Waste Scotland and Visit Scotland.  It is currently chaired by Zero Waste Scotland.
  • BEAR Scotland is responsible for litter picking on the motorway network on the east side of Scotland M8, M80, M876, M9, M90, A823(M) and the A720 City of Edinburgh Bypass and A1 Expressway.  Local authorities are responsible for litter picking on the rest of the trunk road network.
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