Littering Information

1. Common Litter Item

The single most common litter item in Australia is the cigarette butt. Cigarette butts make up half of the litter in NSW. Other common litter items include small pieces of paper, chip and confectionary wrappers, fast food packaging, bottle caps, glass pieces, glass alcohol bottles, plastic straws and bottles.

2. Top 10 Rubbish Items 2003

SOURCE: Clean Up Australia Rubbish Report 2003

3. Cigarettes - The Big Littering Problem

  • Over 32 billion cigarette butts are discarded in Australia each year — if placed end to end they would extend 640,000 kilometres and circle the planet 16 times.
  • Cigarette butts make up 50% of litter items in NSW.
  • Over 9 billion butts are thrown away in NSW each year — if laid end to end they would span a distance of 180,000 kilometres. That's four and a half times around the planet.
  • If all the butts in NSW went to landfill there would be approximately 13,000 cubic metres of solid waste.
  • Cigarette smoke contains up to 4,000 chemicals.
  • An estimated 100,000 tonnes of polluted air is exhaled by smokers in NSW each year.
  • Cigarette butts take up to 5 years to break down.

Cigarette Butt Litter

4. Environmental Impacts of Litter

Litter is a problem throughout NSW, particularly in urban areas and in the more populated areas of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong. Litter is an environmental priority because it:

  • reduces the aesthetic appeal of public places including streets, parks and waterways.
  • can kill aquatic life directly (eg. through choking) and indirectly through its impacts on water quality.
  • can cause blockages of the drainage system and flooding (costing councils millions of dollars to repair).
  • can be dangerous to people particularly when it involves items such as broken glass, needles and syringes.
  • may be a fire hazard (lit cigarettes being thrown from vehicles).
  • costs the community huge sums of money to clean up every year.
  • can decrease oxygen levels when it decays in water.

Litter Collected in Ropes Creek

Litter collected in Ropes Creek

5. Littering Offences

Littering offences include:

  • depositing litter on land or waters in a public place or an open private place (including littering from vehicles).
  • littering which is reasonably likely to cause or contribute to appreciable danger or harm to any persons, animals, premises or property.
  • depositing, or causing someone to deposit, advertising material in a public place or open private place other than in a mail box or under a door.
  • depositing, or causing someone to deposit, advertising material on any vehicle.

Examples of depositing litter include:

  • throwing lolly wrappers from a car.
  • leaving a food container under a public bench.
  • stubbing a cigarette onto a footpath.
  • allowing soil, sand or garden waste to blow from a moving vehicle.

6. Penalties — On the Spot Fines

  • littering with small items - $60
  • littering with an unlit cigarette or extinguished cigarette butt (excluding from a vehicle) - $60
  • littering with a lit cigarette (excluding from a vehicle) - $200
  • general littering - $200 (individuals) / $400 (corporations)
  • littering from vehicles (any litter) - $200 (individuals) / $400 (corporations)
  • aggravated littering which threatens public safety or the environment, such as intentionally breaking glass - $375 (individuals) / $750 (corporations)
  • depositing advertising material in a place or on a vehicle - $200 (individuals) / $400 (corporations)

green thing.jpg

7. Contact

For more information contact:

Council's Environmental Sustainability Section- 9839 6000

NSW Office of Environment and Heritage — 131 555 or http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au