Roadside litter

AA Members call for tougher penalties

4 August 2009

The summer holiday season usually brings an increase in roadside litter

The summer holiday season usually brings with it an increase in roadside litter – often thrown from cars. This summer the AA is backing the Highways Agency's 'Bag it! & Bin it!' campaign.

The Highways Agency is responsible for trunk roads and motorways which see the equivalent of 700,000 bags of rubbish being dumped each year.

AA survey results

To coincide with the campaign the AA/Populus panel1 was asked its views on litter.

The results show that:

  • 61% of drivers loathe motoring 'litter louts' enough to support tough penalties, such as points on their driving licence, large fines and community sentences
  • a larger number (83%) think local authorities should also do more to clear up the litter left along Britain's roads
  • 94% agreed that roadside litter gives a bad impression of Britain and spoils local communities
  • 75% say that roadside littering is a serious problem
  • 76% thought that government campaigns should be carried out to address the problem
  • Of the 8% who admitted being responsible for litter themselves almost two thirds more of those aged between 18 and 24 admitted this compared to those aged over 65

There were significant difference on attitudes towards the prospect of tough penalties between old and young with 73% of those aged over 65 years agreeing with tough sanctions whilst only 45% of 18-24 year olds agreed.

AA comment

AA President Edmund King said, "The latest data from our AA/Populus panel shows that roadside littering makes a large proportion of those in our survey (88%) angry but most are adamant they are not the cause of litter themselves – with only 8% admitting 'litter guilt'. Whoever is to blame there is no excuse for being a roadside 'litter lout' whose actions can cause a danger to other road users and also to those who have to clear up after them."

For the Highways Agency, litter is not only unsightly but also a threat to the environment. Clearing rubbish puts road workers at risk of injury and diverts resources away from road maintenance and repairs.

The AA's anti litter tips

  • Remember that in many places litter bins have been removed so do not expect them wherever you go
  • Carry a litter bag in your vehicle to collect rubbish until it can be safely disposed of
  • Take great care not to discard lit cigarettes as they can start fires and possibly injure other roads users – this is an offence
  • Drink cans and bottles can be dangerous if allowed to roll around in the car's driver foot well potentially impeding safe control of the vehicle
  • CCTV is used extensively these days so the casual tipping out of an ashtray in a car park, or worse, may be enough to lead to a fixed penalty by the authorities tracing you through your car's number plate


1 AA Populus panel survey, 30 June – 6 July 2009 there were 8,808 responses

Highways Agency/AA press release »

Keep Britain Tidy Campaign »

Detailed survey results

Roadside litter gives tourists a bad impression of Britain and spoils areas for local communities

Strongly agree – 68%
Somewhat agree – 26%
Neither agree nor disagree – 4%
Somewhat disagree – 1%
Strongly disagree – 1%
Don't know – 0%

Those aged 18-24 were least likely to agree (88%) and those aged over 65 most likely to agree (98%).

Roadside littering is not a serious problem in Britain

Strongly agree – 4%
Somewhat agree – 10%
Neither agree nor disagree – 10%
Somewhat disagree – 27%
Strongly disagree – 48%
Don't know – 2%

Those aged 18-24 were least likely to disagree (74%) and those aged over 65 most likely to disagree (80%).

Roadside litter is totally unnecessary and it is selfish people that cause it

Strongly agree – 77%
Somewhat agree – 19%
Neither agree nor disagree – 3%
Somewhat disagree – 1%
Strongly disagree – 1%
Don't know – 0%

Government campaigns should be carried out to address the problem of roadside littering

Strongly agree – 39%
Somewhat agree – 37%
Neither agree nor disagree – 16%
Somewhat disagree – 5%
Strongly disagree – 2%
Don't know – 1%

Local authorities should do more to clear-up roadside litter

Strongly agree – 41%
Somewhat agree – 42%
Neither agree nor disagree – 13%
Somewhat disagree – 3%
Strongly disagree – 1%
Don't know – 0%

People who are caught causing roadside litter should be punished with three points on their licence, a fixed penalty fine and possibly a community service order

Strongly agree – 34%
Somewhat agree – 27%
Neither agree nor disagree – 12%
Somewhat disagree – 15%
Strongly disagree – 10%
Don't know – 1%

I have been responsible for causing roadside litter in the past

Strongly agree – 2%
Somewhat agree – 6%
Neither agree nor disagree – 5%
Somewhat disagree – 9%
Strongly disagree – 77%
Don't know – 1%

I feel angry towards people who cause roadside litter

Strongly agree – 60%
Somewhat agree – 28%
Neither agree nor disagree – 9%
Somewhat disagree – 2%
Strongly disagree – 1%
Don't know – 0%

Join the discussion in the AA zone


22 July 2009