What is litter?

Litter is defined as any domestic or commercial waste or any refuse, debris, or rubbish that is disposed of improperly (Ong & Sovacool 2012). Littering is the act of discarding and dropping of litter and waste in public places as opposed to the proper disposal of items.  Under Queensland Law, the inappropriate disposal of less than 200 Litres (approximately a wheelie bin) of waste is classed as littering while the inappropriate disposal of 200 litres or greater is considered to be illegal dumping.

80 Per cent of our local community understands the impact of inorganic types of litter on the environment, its visual impact and how this affects the aesthetic appeal of the region.  The community recognises and accepts the need to recycle items.  But litter goes beyond the typical plastic bags, drink bottles, fast food packaging, fishing tackle, chewing gum and cigarette butts.

In the same survey, around 60 per cent of respondents also recognised grass clippings, food scraps, weeds, seeds, fruits and branches as litter. We call this ‘green waste’.  Other items such as construction and demolition waste (including asbestos), tyres, as well as household goods such as white goods and mattresses are also regularly thoughtlessly disposed of into the environment.  While these items are not as likely to be moved by wind or water they can have a direct and ongoing impact on the local environment.

The Burnett Mary and Wide Bay region has iconic and World Heritage Area natural features, and like most popular tourist venues, suffers from littering. The Baseline Litter Survey 2016 found litter to be prevalent in relatively high amounts throughout the region. For detailed statistics on the region’s litter audit results please refer to The Facts on litter.

Why is it not ok?

It doesn’t matter where you leave it, each piece of litter damages our environment. Litter is blown or washed into stormwater drains and ends up in creeks, rivers, wetlands, estuaries and the sea. Since the introduction of Bundaberg Regional Council’s Illegal Dumping and Littering program in 2013, more than $36,000 in fines have been issued but the problem of loose litter on roadsides and adjacent to commercial premises continues to grow (BRC 2015). The use of CCTV cameras at illegal dumping hotspots has also been helpful in identifying offenders. On the Fraser Coast, it costs rate payers around $150,000 for the council to send people out and pick up around three semi-trailer loads of rubbish a year (Wheeler 2015). In 2013, crews cleaned up and removed more than 80 tonnes of illegally dumped rubbish and litter across the Fraser Coast area (FCRC 2014) with places like Eli Creek a major dumping hotspot.

The attitudinal survey undertaken by Central Queensland University in 2016 reveals that respondents frequently identified roadside and retail outlets as litter hotspots.
Respondents also agreed that litter is visually unattractive. However, many were unaware of the impact litter has on waterways, marine environments and national parks. Out of sight out of mind. The cleanliness of these hotspots is critical to health and maintenance of biodiversity, water quality, habitat resilience, food chains, recreational activities, and tourism potential. For more detailed statistics on the region’s attitudes to litter please refer to The Facts on litter. A massive cost burden that filters down through the community – everyone pays!

There are a wide range of issues and cost burdens created through litter and illegal dumping:-

Rubbish left in the street or on the roadside ends up in our waterways

and the sea. It becomes marine debris. The most common items recovered in debris surveys are plastic items (especially plastic bottles, containers and bags).
Read more

Polluted stormwater creates problems for plants and animals that

live in these ecosystems.
Read more

Ingestion of plastic and entanglement kills birds, turtles, dolphins, whales

and other fauna. Local corals have been found to ingest micro-plastics.
Read more

Litter and the law

Littering and dumping is unlawful and wrong doers can be fined. Councils and the Queensland’s Government Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP) have a shared responsibility for litter and illegal dumping enforcement.

EHP are the State’s environmental regulator and an influential authority on environmental impacts. Their dedicated Litter and Illegal Dumping Unit enforces the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011. The EHP’s litter and illegal dumping online reporting system (LIDORS) allows members of the public to report instances of littering and illegal dumping using a desktop computer, smart phone or tablet, or by calling 13 QGOV (13 74 68).

Council has legislative powers to investigate littering and illegal dumping. If Council can identify the person responsible for this unlawful activity they may:

  • Issue a warning; or
  • Issue a compliance notice outlining how the offender can rectify the situation; or
  • Issue a Penalty Infringement Notice (Fine); or
  • Take the matter to court.

You can report information about what you observe by contacting Bundaberg Regional Council on 1300 883 699 or Fraser Coast Regional Council on 1300 79 49 29. Keep a note pad handy and provide the following information:

  • Street location
  • Type of materials dumped, especially if dangerous
  • Date and time of dumping
  • Vehicle description including number plate
  • Photograph
  • If known name and address of person responsible

Want to report abandoned shopping trolleys or find out more about penalties for litter and illegal dumping visit www.bundaberg.qld.gov.au/environment/littering

References

  • Ong, IBL & Sovacool, BK 2012, ‘A comparative study of littering and waste in Singapore and Japan’, Resources Conservation and Recycling, vol. 61, pp. 35-42.
  • Rockloff, S, McHenry M, and Hanley C, CQUniversity, Taking the Lead on Litter Interim Report, 2016.
  • Wilson, S.P & Verlis, K.M, Department of Environmental Sciences Macquarie University, Baseline Litter Survey of the Burnett Mary Region, Queensland October 2016.

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