Fly-tippers who were caught on camera dumping their rubbish on the M6 were forced to turn back around and pick it up by police.
The men were seen on CCTV pulling up on an emergency bay on part of the motorway where there is no hard shoulder and emptying the contents of the black bin bags.
Traffic police soon intercepted the group and gave them an escort for 20 miles back to the scene to clear up the mess they had made.
The culprits were travelling northbound through Staffordshire when they decided to pull into a lay-by area – designed to help motorists in the event of an emergency, the Manchester Evening News reports.
But they were spotted by control room staff from Highways England who were watching them on CCTV.
Pictures shared on social media show the men bending down to pick up the piles of rubbish after they were shamed on social media.
Highways England’s senior network planner, Frank Bird, said: “This was a blatant and reckless abuse of one of our designated emergency areas which are there to help people in the event of just that, an emergency.
“We watched the whole incident unfold on our CCTV system in our control room and then quickly passed it to the police who were able to stop the vehicle and escort them safely back to the emergency area to tidy up their mess.
“We continue to work closely with our police colleagues who enforce issues like this and we’d remind people to take their litter home and dispose of it safely.”
PC Nick James, from CMPG, was one of the officers that dealt with the hapless offenders.
He said: “We’re grateful to our colleagues at Highways England for their speedy notification of the incident and we quickly found the vehicle which was travelling on the M6. We were able to escort it back to the scene – roughly around a 40-mile round trip – so they could pick up their mess.
“The rubbish was mainly things like takeaway wrappings and plastic bottles which can be easily recycled or disposed of safely at home. We reminded the culprits that stopping on a motorway to drop rubbish off isn’t the smartest move, especially when they’re being watched on CCTV.”
Along with a stern word in the ear of the culprits, their details will also be forwarded to Environmental Health officers for their information so should any future incidents occur there will be a recorded history.
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The RSPCA received 7,400 calls to report incidents of animals injured because of litter in 2018.
The incident – which took place on March 28 – is being used as a timely reminder about the dangers of littering which puts our workforce at risk when they have to go out and collect it.
Highways England, responsible for litter on motorways and a small number of A roads, is calling on drivers to do their bit to reduce litter levels on the nation's motorways as part of the Great British Spring Clean (28 May-13 June).
During last year’s Great British Spring Clean Campaign, they collected 12,000 bags of litter from the network.
Head of Customer and Operational Requirements, Freda Rashdi, said: “We’re urging road users to save litter for the bin. Litter picking costs time and money and doing this diverts resources that could be used to improve the network. If people didn’t drop litter in the first place it wouldn’t need to be picked up. We also work with partners such as Keep Britain Tidy to improve our understanding of why people litter, and to prevent littering in the first place.”
For more information on the Great British Spring Clean click here.