The litter blighting England's motorways costs at least £6 million a year to collect and could fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool four times over, latest figures from the Highways Agency show.
The Agency collects more than 7,500 tonnes of litter from its roads each year, and is now urging motorists to help tackle the problem by bagging and binning their rubbish.
In February 2013, the Highways Agency collected 588 sacks of litter in and around the Bedfordshire and Oxfordshire area.
Litter thrown onto the nation’s highways can cause a safety hazard to other vehicles, while the task of clearing roadside rubbish puts workers at risk.
In the past year roadside finds include a 6ft tall statue of an Olympic mascot, pieces of furniture, a rocking horse and even a sailing mast – all of which could have caused serious accidents.
The Highways Agency has launched its annual ‘Bag it, bin it’ campaign and is asking road users to help reduce the amount of litter on motorways and major A-roads, which can also threaten wildlife and block drains which can lead to flooding.
Roads minister Robert Goodwill said: “The Highways Agency spends at least £6 million a year collecting more than 150,000 sacks of litter from England’s motorways.
“It costs around £40 to collect each bag of rubbish from a motorway, roughly what it costs the Agency to fix a pothole.
“With the ‘Bag it, bin it’ campaign we want to encourage more people to keep a bag in their car, bag their rubbish themselves and dispose of it safely."
Phil Barton, chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said: “Local authorities in England already spend £1 billion in street cleaning and car litter is a considerable factor in this.
“People should take responsibility for their environment, locally and further afield.
“Just because you are on the move is no excuse for despoiling the area you're driving through and leaving others to deal with your thoughtlessness."
The ‘Bag it, bin it’ campaign will run until the end of April and will remind road users to take their litter with them and dispose of it safely through electronic roadside messages.
Messages include ‘help stop litter, bin it’, ‘bin your litter, other people do’ and ‘don't drop litter, bin it’.
To report any instances of litter being spilled from vehicles on motorways and major A-roads, call the Highways Agency on 0300 123 5000.