From this Thursday, for the first time ever in the UK, motorists will be able to claim money off their service station snacks and drinks just by putting their empty plastic bottles and coffee cups in special ‘recycling reward’ machines.
The machines will issue a 5p money-off voucher for each item deposited and are part of a new pilot campaign called #DriveDownLitter, which aims to encourage road users to dispose of their rubbish responsibly.
In addition to the machines, which will be installed at Maidstone Services in Kent, a range of other bins are in place at both Maidstone and Folkestone Services, which are key stop-offs for holidaymakers and lorry drivers travelling to and from France and tourists visiting the Garden of England itself.
The aim is to make it as easy as possible for everyone to get rid of their rubbish, including lorry drivers who will be able to use new giant funnel bins without even having to leave their cabs.
Created by environmental charity Hubbub, #DriveDownLitter is being backed by a range of partners including Highways England, Shell, Costa Express, Roadchef and the 13 Kent councils via the Kent Resource Partnership.
It is hoped that if this six-month pilot is successful it will be rolled out across England’s 1,800 miles of motorways, which are currently being used by some motorists as dumping grounds for bottles, cups, fast food leftovers, newspapers, wet wipes and many other items.
Aside from being unsightly, roadside litter harms wildlife, with wood mice, voles and shrews often found dead inside plastic bottles. Litter causes accidents when thrown from vehicles – 22,000 reported in England in one year alone – as well as flooding and long delays.
Removing litter from motorways is estimated to cost £6m a year, with more than 200,000 sacks of refuse collected annually – that’s an average of 111 bags collected from each mile of motorway.
CEO of Hubbub, Trewin Restorick, said: “Litter by our motorways is an eyesore, harms wildlife and is expensive and dangerous to remove. #DriveDownLitter brings together a unique partnership of organisations exploring whether we can change habits and cut littering. The campaign will see the introduction of the UK’s first reward scheme for people who recycle their coffee cups and plastic bottles at service stations, plus an array of new bins making it easier for drivers of all vehicles to bin their rubbish.”
Wayne Moore, Highways England Service Delivery Manager, said: “Each year we collect around 200,000 bags of litter from the motorways across the country – around 500 a day. Litter isn’t just unsightly; it can block drains and harm wildlife. Picking it up puts road workers in harm’s way and is a distraction from other vital work they could be doing. So I’d urge road users to dispose of their litter responsibly.
“We are pleased to support this great campaign, which should help reduce litter on our roads. Litter is a particular issue close to service stations, which is why we are working closely with the service station owners and our partners on a number of initiatives to tackle litter.”
Gill Tysoe, Roadside Nature Reserve Officer for Kent Wildlife Trust, said: “It saddens us when we come across a discarded bottle on the roadside, which at first appears to be full of sludge, but on closer inspection often reveals up to a dozen or more dead mammals – most commonly wood mice, voles and shrews. It is believed that they enter the bottles out of curiosity or in search of food but then become trapped and probably die from cold or starvation. We must all strive to dispose of our rubbish sensibly.”
Kent Resource Partnership Chairman, Councillor Rory Love, said: “The 13 Kent councils are already working hard to drive down litter on Kent’s high speed roads. We welcome this opportunity to work with Highways England, Hubbub, Shell, RoadChef and Costa Express. Our aims are simple – to make it easier for motorists to do the right thing and recycle their empty bottles and coffee cups, and to promote a culture where littering is not accepted – especially given our County’s proud reputation as the Garden of England.”