More than two-thirds of binmen have suffered physical and verbal abuse, including attacks with guns, knives and drug needles, a new survey claims.

Workers reported being attacked with shovels and grabbed around the throat by angry members of the public and road-rage motorists stuck behind refuse trucks.

In the Midlands, two local council workers were shot at with airguns, while in the North West, a cleaner had a hypodermic needle thrown at him.

Today's poll, conducted by the British Cleaning Council in conjunction with anti-litter charity Keep Britain Tidy, reveals some shocking statistics.

In total, 250 councils - around half of all local authorities - were questioned about abuse on street cleaners and binmen.

The research found one in five workers is injured in violent physical assaults, rising to more than a third in Wales.

And although more than half of the cleaners questioned reported ongoing verbal assaults from members of the public, it is believed the real figure is much higher as many incidents go unreported.

Judith West, chair of the BCC, said: "We are outraged to hear of the cowardly behaviour and mentality of those prepared to harass our street cleaners.

"What is even more devastating is that many cleaners believe that being assaulted is all part and parcel of the job."

The research found that workers are often abused for allegedly causing street " untidiness" and are subjected to road-rage attacks from frustrated drivers complaining that refuse wagons or mechanical sweepers are blocking traffic.

The figures show that assaults are taking place at all times of the day, anywhere from residential areas to bus stations.

Ms West said: "Cleaners deserve our utmost respect. They work in our neighbourhoods in all sorts of weather, despite many being undervalued and untrained."

As part of the survey, workers gave anonymous comments about life on the streets.

In the Midlands, one worker said: "Two refuse collectors were shot at with guns on two separate occasions. Nearly all staff, including cleaners, have been abused by members of the public."

Alan Woods, chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, called on council bosses to record all incidents of abuse on binmen and cleaners.

He said: "Street cleaners are national heroes, braving all kinds of conditions to shift other people's rubbish.

"Those who abuse them ought to consider that the person they are attacking is someone's mother, brother or even grandparent.

"I want every council to adopt a procedure to record complaints and ensure every one of their cleaners is trained in dealing with conflict and how to stay safe on the street.

"But above all else, I, like many members of the British public, long for an end to yobbish, anti-social behaviour."