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Litter & Illegal Dumping
Why we shouldn't litter
Litter has a range of effects on our community. Not only is it aesthetically unsightly but it can impact on our environment and our health. The information below shows how we can reduce our litter and its effects.
Litter is anything that is left where it is not meant to be. Litter is unsightly and can be dangerous. It can cause injury to people and wildlife. It encourages pest animals such as rats, mice and seagulls as well as the spread of germs and disease.
Illegal dumping is a particular type of littering where people go out of their way to dump their rubbish.
It can be of a lower order such as small bags of rubbish in urban streets, in parks or in building site bins or tossing used furniture or other items on vacant land or into the bush.
More serious illegal dumping occurs where people fill up trailers and trucks with all sorts of items and materials and dump them in an area where they think they will not be seen such as National Parks, bushland reserves, parks, industrial and building sites or interestingly, outside charity bins and stores and median strips.
The reasons for this behaviour usually include the distance required to get to a landfill site (rubbish dump), not wanting to pay to get rid of rubbish and laziness.
Illegal dumping can be prosecuted under the Litter Act 1979 and can attract an infringement notice of $200 or a maximum penalty of $1,000 if taken to court.
Littering and the Law
Under Western Australia's Litter Act 1979, littering is illegal. The Act authorises Keep Australia Beautiful Council (KABC) (as part of the Department of Environment), local government, police and other litter enforcement agencies to take action against those who litter. This action can be in the form of 'on-the-spot fines', or as reports to the KABC which are followed up by fines being sent to the offenders.
Not paying your fine can lead to court action or result in your fine being sent to the Fines Enforcement Registry which has the power to withdraw licences until the fine is paid.
Litter and Water Quality
The stormwater system is designed to take rainwater from our guttering and streets into the closest waterway. Any litter can be washed into the stormwater system and can end up on our beaches and in our rivers. Things you shouldn't put into the gutters include:
- Grass clippings
- Garden waste
- Cigarette butts
- Shopping bags
- Drink and fast food containers
- Hazardous chemicals
These materials can block drains causing local flooding or pollute the water in streams and rivers affecting the health of the local flora and fauna.
Therefore, sweeping waste into the gutters, allowing run-off from car washing, cleaning paintbrushes or pouring chemicals and pesticides used on your garden should be avoided.
Littering of a different kind
Other forms of littering include:
- Leaving dog excrement on sidewalks and in public places
- Throwing cigarette butts
- Junk mail
- Putting flyers on cars
Cigarette Butt Litter
Cigarette butts have become a significant littering issue and with increased changes to legislation regarding smoking the problem of cigarette butt littering looks set to increase as people are asked to smoke outside. On average Keep Australia Beautiful issues nearly 90 fines a week for cigarette butt littering through its litter reporter scheme – that accounts for nearly 95% of all fines issued by the Council.
Did you know?
About 24 billion cigarettes are sold in Australia each year.
It is estimated that 7 billion of these cigarettes are littered.
Almost 50% of all litter in urban areas is tobacco related products including foil inserts, wrapping and butts.
Cigarette butts can take up to five years to break down in salt water.
Lit butts thrown into bushland may cause grass and bushfires.