Wildlife paying price for roadside rubbish

Hedgehog in can plastic
Hedgehog in can plastic

Apart from being an eyesore, roadside litter is a serious environmental hazard – and an expensive one too.

In 2018 Highways England reported that it collected 110 bags of litter per mile on its motorway network, costing £40 per bag. That’s a lot of money to spend on roadside rubbish, which could be better spent on other things, like fixing potholes.

Our country roads in Northumberland are looked after by the county council, and it has a particularly tough time.

Verges are often too narrow to allow the 1.2m clearance required for safe working and no one likes a road closure. Without its efforts, and those of volunteers, a lot of roadside debris would potentially be there long after the people who threw it have died of old age.

It takes about 200 years for an aluminium can to break down and at least 450 years for a small plastic bottle.

It endangers wildlife and livestock. In 2017, the RSPCA reported that it was called out to animals in distress due to litter once every two hours.

Highways England claims that hundreds of collisions are caused by litter on the carriageway or landing on windscreens. Cigarettes thrown from moving cars were a particular fire hazard during the dry summer months of 2018, but they also blocked drains and increased flooding during wet weather.

So how can you help?

Carry a bag and take your litter home with you. Better still, carry a pair of gloves and if you stop in a lay-by, collect any litter that has been left lying about.

If it is safe to do so, ‘adopt’ a bit of road near your home and litter-pick while you’re out walking or jogging – the Swedes call it ‘plogging’. It’s a great way to keep fit and care for your environment at the same time.

Thanks to our volunteers, who have been regularly cleaning up our roadsides. And thanks to the Coast-Care and LitterBugs volunteers who have been turning out to help with beach and dune cleaning.

You can find details of all upcoming beach events on www.coast-care.co.uk

You can get in touch with us on Facebook under LitterBugs, or email us at litterbugsnorthumberland@gmail.com