A Tory ex-minister's call for children to go litter picking during school hours has been branded "foolish" in the Lords.
Lord Robathan said including litter picking in the national curriculum for Year 6 children would help tidy the roads and encourage civic responsibility.
But fertility expert Lord Winston warned of children being put in "unnecessary danger doing foolish things".
At question time, education minister Lord Agnew said the government was working actively on anti-littering awareness in schools.
Lord Robathan said the "shocking and disgusting proliferation of litter in our towns and countryside shames this nation".
He acknowledged his proposal might meet with some opposition but added: "If it were enacted that all children spent a couple of hours clearing litter it might have a gradual effect on attitudes and a positive educational impact."
Litter picking 'a symptom'
Urging ministers to look seriously at the plan, he called for radical action "so we no longer need to be shamed at the state of our highways and byways".
Lord Agnew said he agreed about the need to tackle the "scourge of litter", which was why a strategy had been launched last year to clean up the country.
But Labour's Lord Winston said that given the high rate of illiteracy in many primary schools and the low rate of numeracy among 11-year-olds it would be "far better to concentrate on the essentials of a good education and not expose our children to unnecessary danger doing foolish things which are not really part of the curriculum".
Lord Agnew said litter was a "symptom of children's respect of our society and respect for the environment" and a good education would address these "two strands".
He told Lord Winston: "I think you are a little harsh in your judgment, because it is a symptom of a good society to not have litter."