Motorists are being urged to clean up their act as the organisation responsible for maintaining England’s motorways embarks on a litter purge.

According to Highways England, around 200,000 bags of litter have to be removed from the roadside every year, so the organisation is teaming up with environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy to take part in the Great British Spring Clean - an initiative that sees people across the country collect and safely dispose of litter. Although the scheme runs from March 22 and April 23, Highways England has got a head start after beginning litter-picking operations on March 1.

It isn’t the first time the two organisations have joined forces, and although last year’s operations were made more difficult by the ‘Beast from the East’, Highways England collected more than 8,000 bags of litter from the side of the road. However, the organisation hopes to better that number this year.

Highways England’s head of customer and operational requirements, Freda Rashdi, said littering was taking up valuable resources that could otherwise be used to improve the country’s strategic roads.

“Litter is an important national issue and we’re pleased to be able to support the Great British Spring Clean,” she said. “Litter is unsightly, as well as a risk to wildlife and the environment, but it also puts our workers at risk collecting it and it diverts time and money that could be better spent on improving the network.

“If people don’t drop litter in the first place it wouldn’t need to be picked up – so we’re urging people to take their litter home instead of tossing it out of their car windows.”

Litter dumped on the ground in Donnington Leicestershire UK

Allison Ogden Newton, the chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said the initiative would save “millions” of small animals living in verges.

“I’m delighted that Highways England has joined forces with us again this year to support the campaign and give our network a spring clean,” she said. “Our roadside verges are a haven for wildlife and we know that millions of small mammals are killed every year by litter that has been thrown from vehicles by thoughtless drivers.

“Our army of up to 500,000 volunteers will be delighted to see that Highways England is supporting their efforts by cleaning up the places that they can’t get to – our high-speed road network and slip roads, where so much litter is tossed out of car windows.”