MTA 2021 Innovation winner

Charlotte Patch, Balfour Beatty commercial manager - fleet (holding trophy) collects the award from Kate Norton, sales general manager of commercial at Goodyear Tyres

Every year more than 200,000 bags of litter have to be removed from motorways managed by Highways England. This equates, on average, to more than 7,500 tonnes of rubbish.

In order to ensure the safety of motorists and wildlife and prevent the build-up of surface water, it is vital that the road network is as litter-free as possible.

Balfour Beatty Plant & Fleet Services and Connect Plus Services designed, built and delivered an innovative new design, which enables maintenance crews to collect litter of all shapes, sizes and weights from the roadside with the use of a hand-held vacuum pipe serviced by a bespoke machine mounted on a truck bed. The litter is deposited into a compartment within the machine, with any dust contained with a filter.

The machine was developed with health and safety in mind when working on the UK’s busiest motorway, while also improving the rate of litter picking. The vacuum sucks litter in, as opposed to teams manually collecting the waste, meaning litter picking is faster and workers can spend less time in a live highway environment.

The machine has been used regularly on the M25 network since its introduction, and although the use is still in its infancy, wider training of the workforce is expected to increase efficiency by 33%.

Fewer operatives will also be needed on litter picking duties, which should mean they are freed up to carry out other maintenance and essential works on the highways network.

Our judges said: “This entry really stood out as solving a unique challenge. Truly innovative, good, clear, concise entry describing an innovation that helps remove the dangers of working at the side of the road.”

“We want our environment to be safe and ultimately that’s what this award is about”

Charlotte Patch, commercial manager – fleet, Balfour Beatty Plant & Fleet Services