Scotland’s motorways used as rubbish dump

18 August 2008
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In one year alone enough litter is collected from the motorways of south west Scotland to fill two public swimming pools according to Transport Scotland’s operating company Amey who are today urging motorists as part of National motorway litter week not to ‘Tip on your trip’.

National motorway litter week starts today and aims to drive home the message to motorists that they must take their litter home with them. The RAC Foundation, Transport Scotland and Keep Scotland Beautiful, who are concerned about the rising levels of litter on the roads of Scotland, are supporting the campaign.

Research from Amey on the problem of roadside litter finds that: 

  • Every week over 13 tonnes of litter is callously thrown from vehicles
  • Amey’s dedicated litter picking squads will fill at least 12 family sized cars a week with the discarded litter.
  • Over 50 tonnes of litter are cleared from stretches of the M8, M73, M74, M80 and M77 motorways every month, requiring four 16 tonne skips to help with the clear-up operation. 

The issue of littering is slightly masked during the Summer months as the foliage of trees and shrubbery can temporarily disguise the troublesome trash hiding beneath. Fly tipping, an extreme level of littering, is also an issue for Amey.  All sorts of items like worn tyres, mobile phones, old televisions, pieces of furniture and fridges have been found in areas where the motorway boundary fence stretches back towards residential areas. Amey’s litter collectors even have to use special kit to pick up and dispose of dirty hypodermic needles.

Willie Watson, Amey’s unit manager for south west Scotland explains:

“Litter is a real issue across the network but motorway 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.  With the volume of vehicles on the network every day the quantities quickly stack up.

“It’s an ongoing battle to keep the routes clear and looking tidy and we really need drivers’ help to achieve it.  Not only is littering unsightly and dangerous if blown into the face of other vehicles, it can also be harmful to wildlife.  We appeal to road users to take their litter home and to stop throwing it out of their car windows.”

Scott Lees, Transport Scotland’s area manager said:

“Clearing large volumes of needless litter on the trunk road network is a burden on the public purse and on the resources of our operating companies.

“We would strongly urge anyone who thinks it is acceptable to throw litter from their vehicle to think again.”

Sheila Rainger, Deputy Director for the RAC Foundation said:

“Our motorways run through some of the most picturesque and dramatic landscape in Europe. As motoring itself becomes greener and cleaner, we should not lose sight of the need to keep the roads themselves safe, clean and litter free.”

Glasgow City Council leader Councillor Steven Purcell said:

“Our Clean Glasgow campaign is built on a partnership with communities and a shared responsibility for our environment. That doesn't just mean at home – but also out around the city and, indeed, on the move.”

“We want to encourage a clear commitment from all sectors – individuals, businesses and council services – to a cleaner, safer Glasgow."

Chief Executive of Keep Scotland Beautiful, John Summers OBE, said,

“Carelessly throwing your litter from a car window is an illegal activity and many areas of Scotland now issue £50 Fixed Penalty Fines directly to drivers caught in the act.  But not only is it unacceptable to deposit your waste on the roadside, it also spoils Scotland’s beautiful countryside, affects tourism and costs millions to clear up.  The most annoying thing about road litter is that it is wholly preventable – all motorists have to do is take their litter home, or use a bin.”

Case Study:

Michael Carswell is a member of Amey’s Operations Team, based at Tannochside Depot near Glasgow.  The depot delivers maintenance works on routes including the M73, M74 and M8.  He joined Amey about 18 months ago and his role includes litter picking on the motorways.

Michael and his colleagues can often be seen on the verges of the motorways in south west Scotland armed with black sacks and their grab poles.

He explains:

“I never really thought about littering before I started doing this but it’s completely unbelievable the amount of waste that drivers throw out of their windows.  I can be out blitzing an area and almost as fast as I’m collecting it up more is gathering.  The slip roads are usually the worst, especially down near Larkhall and Motherwell off the M74.  Drivers and passengers seem to gather up the food wrappers, drinks cans, bottles and cigarette packets on their journey and then turf them out the window once they’re slowing or queuing on a slip road.

“Its not just small items of everyday litter we find either.  Fly tipping is a big problem too.  Bizarrely last year we had to remove three fridges covered in graffiti from the central reservation of the M8 at Charing Cross.  Anyone fly-tipping on the motorway is putting both themselves and other road users in danger.  Where our boundary fence is next to a housing estate we’ve found a three piece suite, TVs, and other household items.”


ADVANCE OPPORTUNITY:  Photocall of a car covered in litter and full inside with litter takes place on Friday 15 August at 10.30am

LOCATION: Please report to Amey, Langmuir Way, Bargeddie, Glasgow, G69 7RW where you will then be transferred to the shoot location on the M74 motorway

STOCK PHOTOGRAPHY: Can be supplied on request


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