Mobile litter bugs: 7.6 million drivers admit to littering from their cars

17th August 2016

  • One in seven (15 per cent) motorists admit they have thrown litter out of the window while behind the wheel
  • Non-degradable packaging tops the list of items that drivers are most likely to throw away while driving
  • Creatures of bad habit: a quarter (25 per cent) of littering drivers admit it is a force of habit
  • Fines believed to be the most effective deterrent to stop would-be mobile litter bugs (43 per cent)

New research1 from Churchill Car Insurance reveals that over 7.6 million drivers admit to throwing rubbish out the window while driving.

One in seven drivers (15 per cent) have littered while at wheel in the last month alone. The research shows that non-degradable items like soft drink cans, plastic bags and fast food wrappers are the most common items we're happy to dispose of while driving (8 per cent). This is compared to five per cent who throw out degradable litter such as fruit and other foods.

Drivers who smoke also contribute to the UK's littering problem. In fact, 5 per cent dispose of cigarette butts and e-cigarettes on the roads.

Top items drivers throw out of the car window

Rank Items people throw out Percentage
1 Non degradable items (e.g. plastic bottles, fast food wrappers, plastic bags etc) 8%
2 Degradable items (e.g. fruit and other foods) 5%
3 Cigarette butts and e-cigarettes 5%
4 Paper based items (e.g. parking tickets, newspapers etc.) 4%

Source: Churchill Home Insurance

Churchill explored the reasons drivers give for littering on the roads rather than disposing of rubbish responsibly. A quarter (25 per cent) admitted to throwing away rubbish behind the wheel due to force of habit. Just over one in five (21 per cent) litter to prevent clutter in the car, followed by 20 per cent who either admitted they couldn't stop on the road or wanted to concentrate on diving.

Top items drivers throw out of the car window

Rank Excuses for throwing rubbish out of the car window Percentage
1 Force of habit 25%
2 To prevent clutter in the vehicle 21%
3 Because they couldn't stop on the road 20%
4 To improve their concentration on driving 20%
5 To prevent the car from smelling 19%

Source: Churchill Home Insurance

When it comes to attitudes towards car littering amongst different age groups, young people are five times more likely to have thrown litter out of a vehicle than those aged 55+. Indeed, more than a quarter (28 per cent) of drivers aged between 18 and 34 admit to having thrown litter out of the window while behind the wheel, compared to just one in 20 (5 per cent) drivers aged over 55. One in seven (14 per cent) drivers aged between 35 and 54 claim to have littered behind the wheel in the past month.

The research examined the type of deterrents that would be effective in preventing UK drivers from littering. Fines emerged top of the list, with 43 per cent admitting the threat of a financial penalty would stop them littering. This was closely followed by receiving three points on their licence (42 per cent) or a one month driving ban (37 per cent). Interestingly, a third of littering drivers (33 per cent) would reconsider their littering ways if a damning photo was posted in their local newspaper or they were subjected to community service.

Steve Barrett, head of car insurance at Churchill commented: "Littering on the UK roads is a problem as it can prove hazardous to other drivers, harmful to the environment and costly for councils to clear up. The research shows it's often force of habit that makes drivers litter when behind the wheel. It's important that drivers think about where rubbish can be stored temporarily until it is safe for them to stop and dispose of the items responsibly."

  • 1 Research conducted by Opinium Research with a representative sample of 2006 UK adults between 14th – 17th June 2016.
    7.6 million figure based on 15 per cent of Brits losing their vehicle. 15 per cent of 50,909,000 UK drivers = 7,613,509

For further information, please contact:

Antonia Green
Citigate Dewe Rogerson
Tel: 0207 282 2967

Chloe French
PR Manager
Tel: 01651 831 715


Founded in 1989, Churchill is now one of the UK’s leading providers of general insurance, offering car, home, travel and pet insurance cover over the phone or on-line.

Churchill general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales No 1179980. U K Insurance Limited is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority.

Churchill and U K Insurance Limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc.

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