Smokers in the town centre have been urged to bin their cigarette butts after a staggering 50,000 were collected in just five days as part of a community clean-up operation.

The Keep it Clean campaign, hosted by inSwindon BID filled 71 bags of rubbish – and 90 per cent of the contents were discarded cigarette butts.

It is estimated that 300 were picked up every hour by the 92 volunteers who took to the streets in the week-long initiative supported by the BID’s Clean and Well-Maintained working group.

And Dale Heenan, Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member for the town centre, said: “Residents need to take some pride in Swindon because we all live and work here.

“Please stop dropping litter, cigarette butts and chewing gum on the floor. You wouldn’t use the floor of your house as an ashtray, so don’t be lazy where there is a bin 20ft away in the town centre.”

More than 200 pieces of gum were removed using the BID's new ‘Gum Buster’ cleaning machine which will be regularly used to keep all areas of the town centre gum free in the future.

The BID team encouraged “town centre users to dispose of all their waste responsibly, particularly cigarette butts and chewing gum.”

Staff from businesses including The Brunel shopping centre, McDonald’s, Metro Bank, Artsite, Swindon Borough Council and the public spent two hours each day litter picking, washing street furniture, and maintaining planters.

Chris Lawrence, operations consultant for McDonald’s in Swindon, said: “The number of cigarette butts we picked up has been incredible. It’s actually been soul-destroying to see how many are lying on our streets.

“But some of the younger people who’ve come along to help have now said they will never drop one again, which is great.”

Di Powell, inSwindon BID's CEO, said: “The aim of the community spring clean, was to bring together the local community, through businesses and the general public, and to take pride in our town centre.”

The campaign, which ran from May 20-24, also saw 23 pieces of graffiti removed and three shopping trolleys recovered as volunteers racked up 184 hours of engagement.

Mr Lawrence added: “I hope this campaign inspires other people to get involved. I was speaking to a member of the public the other day about how to do a similar thing in her own area. If people seeing us out and about, if that means not only Swindon town centre benefits, but other areas are cleaned up too, then it’s well worth it.”

Rob Faulkner, site facilities manager of The Brunel shopping centre and chair of the Clean and Well-Maintained working group, said: “We want to instil pride and respect in people for the town, and then we won’t get people dropping so much litter. “This is a real community effort to show what more can be done to support the appearance of our town centre.

“People have noticed the area looks so much better. Someone came up to me during the week and said: ‘Oh is there going to be a royal visit soon?’

"We want people to feel encouraged to do more themselves to keep the streets clean.”

As part of their efforts the team also found a baby carrier and a section of tree on Canal Walk.

“I found a quarter of a birthday cake outside Focal Point the other day,” Jon Carpenter, the operations manager for C J Room Ltd, who owns and operates McDonald’s restaurants in Swindon, Cirencester, Stroud and Watchfield.

“Chocolate cake. It looked very tasty, but I didn’t try it,” he added.

Vicky Alderton, one of the housekeeping staff at the Brunel Centre, said: “I’ve really enjoyed taking part. People are stopping and asking what we’re doing and wanting to join in. “Just speaking to people who want to get involved in keeping their community clean has been really rewarding. There is quite a lot of rubbish in the town so it’s nice to help make Swindon a better place for visitors."

“I thought it would be a good thing to do for the community,” added Chloe Burchett, who works at McDonald’s and attends New College.

Chloe was volunteering before sitting her AS-level business exam after Friday’s session.

“Lots of people don’t respect the town and I wanted to do something to help that," she added.

“It’s important to do things like this because we’re role models – the younger kids look up to us and if we do something right, they do something right and it goes from there.

“It is also a way to help save the environment. There is lots in the news about environmental problems and this is a good way to actually do something to help."

Mr Faulkner added: “We want to say thank you to everyone who has helped – McDonald’s and all the retailers who took part. We really couldn’t have done it without everyone giving up their time.”