Motorists will be rewarded for placing litter in special bins at service stations under a scheme to clean up the motorway network.
Britain’s first “recycling reward” machines, due to be installed this week at Maidstone services in Kent, will issue a 5p money-off voucher for each empty plastic bottle or coffee cup inserted.
The machines will be introduced at dozens of other service stations across England’s 1,800 miles of motorway if they are shown to help to reduce the amount of litter in the area.
Kent has been chosen for the trial in part because of the high number of lorry drivers and holidaymakers heading to and from Channel ports and concerns that some throw litter out of their vehicles. Giant funnel bins will be installed at service stations in the county to allow lorry drivers to dispose of their litter without leaving their cab.
The trial is being run by the environmental charity Hubbub and is backed by 13 Kent councils, Highways England, Shell, Costa Express and Roadchef. Researchers have measured litter levels in the area in the past four weeks and will monitor the impact of the machines and funnel bins over the next six months.
Removing litter from motorways costs £6 million a year, with more than 200,000 sacks of refuse collected, an average of 111 bags per mile.
According to a survey in 2016 one in seven drivers admitted to having thrown rubbish out of their car in the previous month. Twenty-eight per cent between 18 and 34 said they had, compared with 5 per cent of those aged over 55.
Hubbub said that roadside litter caused accidents when thrown from vehicles and also harmed wildlife.
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.”
Rory Love, chairman of Kent Resource Partnership, which includes the 13 Kent councils, said: “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.”
Wayne Moore, Highways England service delivery manager, said: “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. We urge road users to take their litter home and are working with partners in local government to find a longer-term solution.”
Hubbub is working with Starbucks on a “latte levy” trial in which customers at 36 of the coffee chain’s stores in London are charged 5p for each disposable cup. Early results show that the 5p charge is more effective than a 25p discount at getting customers to remember to bring a reusable cup.
Six per cent of customers bring a reusable cup to the stores charging 5p compared with 2 per cent for all Starbucks stores, which already offer a 25p discount for drinks served in a reusable cup.