Litter on motorways and major A roads
Litter puts road users and the people who have to pick it up at risk. It also threatens wildlife living alongside our roads. Dealing with litter takes valuable resources away from other work.
What roads do we clear litter from?
Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, we're responsible for collecting litter on:
- England’s motorways
- a small number of major A roads (also known as all purpose trunk roads)
Local authorities are responsible for collecting litter on other roads.
We pick thousands of bags of litter from our road network every day. As well as this, we also take part in extra activities each year:
- during Keep Britain Tidy’s annual Great British Spring Clean campaign
- at national litter hotspots
How do we plan litter picking?
We plan our litter picking activity carefully, like all our maintenance work. We usually combine litter picking with our other routine activities to:
- keep our workers safe
- minimise disruption to road users
- manage costs
When do we pick litter?
We'll be litter picking somewhere on our network every day of the year.
We're constantly monitoring the condition of our road network against standards set by the Defra's Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse.
If conditions fall below standard, we'll take action. We always aim to do so quicker than the legal requirement. At some locations, we're clearing litter within 3 to 5 working days.
Where litter or debris is a hazard to road users (such as tyre debris in live lanes), we'll use emergency measures to prioritise its removal.
Why do we need to close lanes for litter picking?
We close parts of roads to traffic where it's necessary to keep our people safe. For instance, when we're litter picking along the carriageway itself.
We know this can cause delays and if it's safe for us to work without closures, we'll do so.
How do we work with local authorities?
We make sure that local authority litter picking is smoothly coordinated with other maintenance work on our roads.
We're working in partnership with a number of local authorities so we can work together to improve efficiency and reduce disruption.
What else are we doing?
We're installing a range of extra measures at litter hotspots including:
- car and lorry driver height bins at motorway service areas
- innovative cleaning techniques, like industrial vacuums
- time lapse cameras to monitor littering
- influencing littering behaviour through communications campaigns
- anti-littering posters and signs
- more rapid clean up action