Motorway fly-tippers seen dumping rubbish on CCTV were given a 20-mile escort back to a lay-by and forced to pick up their rubbish.
Footage showed people pulling up on an emergency bay where there is no hard shoulder on the northbound M6 in Staffordshire.
The pair get out of the car and dump food waste and other rubbish from black bin bags onto the side of the busy motorway.
They drove off, but were intercepted by motorway police and forced to drive 20 miles back to the scene of the crime and clean up the mess they left behind, the Manchester Evening News reports.
It ended up being a 40-mile round trip.
Control room staff at Highways England had watched the pair on CCTV on March 28 and alerted Central Motorway Police Group (CMPG).
Frank Bird, senior network planner at Highways England, 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 who forced the pair to drive back and collect their rubbish.
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.”
The details of the people were given to Environmental Health officers so there is a record of the incident.
Footage of the incident was released as part of the Great British Spring Clean Campaign, which runs until June 13.
Highways England is trying to raise awareness about the dangers of littering and how it puts staff at risk when they have to go out and collect drivers’ and passengers’ rubbish.
Last year, 12,000 bags of litter were collected from the network.
Freda Rashdi, head of customer and operational requirements, 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.”
The RSPCA received 7,400 reports of animals being injured because of litter in 2018.