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I have been sent a copy of a letter from the Highways Agency in response to a complaint about motorway litter. It neatly illustrates  the strategy used by the Agency to deflect criticism of its failings by:

Misrepresenting its  responsibilities

The letter says “the Secretary of State for Transport has a responsibility under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to collect litter on motorways

What the Act actually says, in respect to motorway land, is that the Secretary of State has a duty “to ensure that the land is, so far as is practicable, kept clear of litter and refuse.”

Emphasising the number of bags of litter collected

The letter refers to 240,000 sacks of litter having been removed from motorways in 2011. Apart from a portion that will biodegrade all the litter dropped will eventually be collected.

The issue is how long on average is it being left in situ.

Referring to Litter Code of Practice

The letter says “In clearing litter the contractors are required to work to DEFRA’s Code of Practice on Litter and Refuse..”

The Code describes itself as a practical guide for duty bodies. It says they “are expected to set their cleansing schedules so that they meet the duty to keep their relevant land clear of litter and refuse“. The duty body i.e. the Agency has to set the schedules. They cannot just pass this responsibility onto their contractors.  Read more about how the Code is misinterpreted.

Empathizing with the complainant

The Letter says: “The Highways Agency shares your frustration with regard to the amount of litter deposited on or at the side of the motorways…

Referring to their support for  the latest litter campaigns

There are three paragraphs on this.

Mentioning lots of organisations they are working with on the problem

Four are mentioned in the letter.

Please – just go out and pick up the litter!

Peter Silverman
15th August 2013






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