Why is the North West facing a littering epidemic?

As lockdown restrictions begin to ease many are bracing themselves for a rise in litter - and warning about the problems it can cause for wildlife.

In just one spot volunteer litter pickers found bags of human faeces hanging from trees, a layby littered with dozens of bottles of urine, soiled nappies, junk food wrappers, and coffee cups.

They say the amount of rubbish found on roadside verges and beauty spots across the region has got much worse during the pandemic.

Bottles of urine are thrown out of vehicles

Police in the Lake District are also urging visitors who break the law to stay away, after a massive increase in anti-social behaviour.

Farmers and landowners say they have had to deal with people not only leaving behind litter but also abandoned tents and camping gear.

Andy Slattery, Assistant Chief Constable of Cumbria Police says his force will continue to crack down on those who leave litter: "Anybody who leaves rubbish like that could well fall foul of the fly tipping regulations and we will follow it up where necessary."

Some of the litter left over from campers in Cumbria.

But it is not just unsightly - discarded rubbish can be a safety risk as well as cause problems for wildlife and the environment.

Covid restrictions have led to fewer litter collections and despite lockdown, when fewer people were out and about, the problem's escalated.

Experts are predicting a surge in litter as lockdown eases

The maximum on the spot fine for littering is £150 but most councils issue less than one fine a week.

Campaigners think penalties need to be much higher and actively enforced.

Campaigners claim some of the problem is down to lower council budgets, with less resource able to clean up local areas.

Debbie Parker, who volunteers for Irlam & Cadishead Community Clean-up, says it should not be up to those willing to give up their own time to help out.

She added: "But if there were the council resources and it hadn't been slashed so much then we wouldn't be in this situation.

"It is people coming together who are sick of the area looking a mess and just coming together and giving up their Sunday morning to make a difference."

A line of rubbish bags collected in just one morning from one area by volunteers in Bolton.

Despite less traffic on the road campaigners also say the motorway rubbish has got worse - with litter thrown from cars as motorists go by.

Terry Dean added: "There's less traffic on the road and yet the litter's got worse. So why is that?

"Does that mean Highways England is not paying as much attention as it used to pay, even though it never paid very much."

Highways England say their clean up crews have worked seven days a week throughout lockdown .

Paul Elliott, North West Service Manager for Maintenance Operations at Highways England said: "Highways England are fulfilling their obligations.

"We are out on the network on a daily basis picking litter which is proven by the amount of time and money we are spending on that each year.

"What we have also introduced this year or just this week is an initiative to get our staff observing people dropping litter on the network, collating that information and working with our central teams we are looking at actions we can take against people and that will hopefully end up in people getting prosecuted for doing litter dropping on the network."

Despite there being less traffic on the road campaigners say litter has got worse.