Litter piling up by the side of major roads could give visitors the impression Suffolk is a "dirty county", tourism chiefs and litter campaigners fear.

With the vital summer tourist season just around the corner, there is concern the unsightly mess could have an economic impact on businesses that depend on the holiday trade, especially if people are put off returning.

Verges along the A14 and A12 are strewn with discarded rubbish, adding to a long-standing problem with motorists choosing to dump their food and drink cartons and other litter by the side of the road.

A litter campaigner, tourist body and district councils are all appealing for people to take more responsibility for their mess.

Jason Alexander, founder of social enterprise Rubbish Walks, said: “It is an issue that has been there for a long time, but because it has been there for a long time, it is being added to every single day.”

He said litter pickers found it "frustrating" to tidy an area and then find more rubbish had been dumped following the clean-up, adding that a lot of work was being done by Rubbish Walks and conservation organisations to try and educate the public about the importance of not littering.

East Anglian Daily Times: Award-winning social entrepreneur Jason said football clubs are in a unique position to promote behavioural changeAward-winning social entrepreneur Jason said football clubs are in a unique position to promote behavioural change (Image: Jason Alexander/Rubbish Walks CIC)

“I think with anywhere you go. The more litter that you see, it gives the impression that the area’s uncared for," he said.

“It is obviously a big issue and as litter builds up by the side of motorways, you can’t help but notice it and I think it will have a negative effect on people visiting the area because as they are travelling to locations in Suffolk, there is already a preconceived idea that this region is not cared for.

“So, when they reach their destination, they are arriving with the impression that it is a dirty county."

Annie Willey, brand manager for tourist guide The Suffolk Coast, echoed Mr Alexander’s worries.

She said: “First impressions count and of course, any litter of any kind creates a negative impact on tourism.”

Although local authorities and litter groups clear away the rubbish, the ultimate responsibility lies with the individual to not drop the waste in the first place, she added.

“I think it is really important to say that people need to stop dropping it in the first place. It is a problem for people to sort out. They need to stop being so selfish,” Mrs Willey said.

District and borough councils are responsible for litter clearance along with other agencies, and they agree the rubbish is not only unsightly and dangerous, it also gives a poor impression to visitors and investors.

They say littering is a criminal offence and anyone who drops litter – including from a vehicle – is committing a crime and can be fined up to £2,500.

A spokesman said: “Anyone who sees a crime being committed should report it as soon as it is safe to do so, including the date and time, the location, what was littered and any vehicle registration number and we will investigate and prosecute wherever we are able.

“Any dashcam footage they may have may also help. Gathering the evidence needed to prove littering is difficult, especially to a standard to secure a conviction.

“Clearing the litter from the county’s main arterial routes requires close cooperation from several agencies.

“This includes neighbouring district authorities, Highways England and Suffolk Highways and we work together wherever possible to reduce cost to the taxpayer and inconvenience to motorists as a result of any necessary traffic management."

“Special teams are set up, but this is highly dangerous work and can only be done at certain times. This means it can sometimes take longer to clear main road verges compared to the street cleansing programmes within our towns and villages, but we are not prepared to put our crews in danger.”

James Suckling, National Highways service delivery manager, said: "Millions of people travel on our network every day and despite our best efforts to keep roads clean, they can quickly become littered with rubbish from vehicles and unsecured loads.

He added the authority worked with local authorities to tackle the litter problem.

“The litter on our roads can cause a hazard to drivers, our workers and wildlife. If people didn't drop litter from their vehicles in the first place, it wouldn't need to be picked up. We're urging people to think twice before tossing it out of their car windows and take it home instead," Mr Suckling said.