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Blog: Are you a litterbug driver?

A motorway at rush hourOne in four drivers admit to throwing litter from their cars, with cigarette ends, food and food wrappers topping the list of discarded items. Are you a litterbug driver?

There's nothing more us Brits love than a little moan. If it's not the weather, then it's rubbish.

Admit it: weren't you "up in arms" as the phrase goes, when the council made your bin collection fortnightly? I know I was.

(If this hasn’t happened in your part of the country yet, count yourself very lucky!)

But what enrages me even more than fortnightly bin collection, is the residents in my area who can't be bothered to observe the new rules and are happy to chuck rubbish outside their homes at all times.

The seagull swerve

This leads to unsightly streets of black, green and white plastic bags pecked open by seagulls and foxes, and scared pedestrians such as myself having to run for cover from swooping birds eager to fill up on food waste.

But wait – we're not just chucking rubbish out of our houses. It seems many are happy to chuck it from cars too. Yes, really.

Around 9 million drivers admit having thrown litter from their cars in the last year, according to new research from Green Flag breakdown service.

Cigarette butts & chicken wings

An astonishing 11 million pieces of fruit, 4.5 million sweet wrappers and 2.9 million items of fast food such as burgers, pizza slices and fried chicken have been jettisoned through car windows by drivers in the last year.

This is according to new research from Green Flag breakdown service which polled 2,000 motorists in May.

The top five items thrown from cars are:

  • Cigarette ends (29 million) 
  • Food (17.4 million items including fast food)
  • Food wrappers (11.8 million)
  • Drinks bottles and cans (6.2 million)
  • Tissues (5.2 million)

Litterbugs by region

The worst affected areas by drivers littering are London and the south-east, with 21 per cent of drivers in both areas admitting to littering in the past 12 months.

This falls to 15 per cent in the south-west and Scotland. But wait until your hear drivers’ excuses for littering.

Excuses, excuses

More than a quarter of drivers - 27 per cent - excuse their actions by claiming they throw out items to prevent a smell building up.

While more than one in five - 22 per cent - use the road as a dustbin to prevent their car becoming cluttered.

A lazy 17 per cent of drivers said they couldn't wait for a bin and 16 per cent said they couldn't stop to deposit items because the road was too busy.      

Miranda Schunke from Green Flag said: "It is disgraceful that our roads are being clogged up with rubbish from motorists who are too lazy to find a bin."

And I’ve got to say, I agree with Miranda. But what will it take to get motorists to stop being litterbugs?

Is a fine a cure?

Well, 58 per cent of drivers said a £50 fine would be sufficient to stop them throwing litter from their vehicles. 

However, 33 per cent drivers the threat of litter picking community service would be enough to stop them dumping rubbish from car windows. 

Drivers can be issued with a £80 fixed penalty notice if caught dropping litter, or £100 from agents of London's local authorities.

But of course, it’s enforcement that’s the problem. Being on the move does make litterbug drivers hard to catch.

Maybe it’s up to us. Maybe we should honk out horns to express our outrage every time we see a driver chuck a chicken wing from his or her motor. That’ll teach ‘em.

(Of course, don’t honk in a built-up area between the hours of 11.30pm and 7.00am, except when another road user poses a danger, as outlined in our motoring myths article!)

What do you think?

Are you a litterbug driver? If so, why?

What do you think can be done to encourage everyone – not just drivers but the public in general whether they’re walking, on public transport, or driving, to Keep Britain Tidy?

We want to hear from you! You can share your views on our message board below.

Naphtalia Loderick

Naphtalia Loderick

Naphtalia Loderick covers all things consumer for She started out on a weekly newspaper, via a national news agency and a stint in the fun but ‘not as glamorous as it appears on screen’ world of TV at the BBC researching consumer films for The One Show.

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