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10 Surprising Facts About Littering in Australia

4 January 2024
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Littering has been a longstanding thorn in the side of Australia’s environment.

When was the last time you disposed of a piece of trash? Did you put it in the bin where it belongs, or is it lying on the side of the street?

Regardless of the size or shape of the rubbish, tossing it anywhere but the bin would mean you played a part in exacerbating a problem that has troubled our society for years.

Despite the enactment of the legislation against littering in 1856, we have still not managed to address this pervasive issue. To illustrate how serious it is, we’ve gathered 10 of the most surprising facts about littering in Australia.

  1. The amount of litter in Australia is projected to increase by 20% by 2030. This concerning trend highlights the challenges that our environment and ecosystems may encounter if we continue to litter at present rates. These findings sound the alarm for Australia's litter issue, and it's a wake-up call for all of us. If we fail to take action, our beautiful country is likely to become more cluttered with trash within the next decade.

  2. There are an estimated 7 billion pieces of litter on Australian roadsides. According to Keep Australia Beautiful, we are facing a staggering litter crisis, with billions of items strewn across both urban and remote areas. Australia produces a staggering amount of waste every year, reaching 10 million tonnes. A portion of this, around 100,000 tonnes, becomes litter. Needless to say, this results in significant repercussions for the environment.

  3. The most common type of litter in Australia — cigarette butts. Accounting for over 30% of all litter items collected, cigarette butts are one of the biggest parts of the Australia’s litter problem. Apart from being an eyesore, cigarette butts also pose gradual dangers to the environment. Cigarettes contain toxic chemicals that can take years to break down, and leaving them on the street can cause these contaminants to leach into soil and water.
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  1. Over 100,000 animals are killed or injured by litter each year. Litter is a major threat to Australian wildlife, and it doesn’t stop at our shores. It also pollutes waterways and oceans, harming our already fragile marine life and ecosystems. Our nation boasts an estimated 600,000 to 700,000 species of wildlife, both on land and in its surrounding seas, but if we don’t protect it from threats like litter, that could change for the worse.

  2. Over 80% of Australians think that littering is a serious problem. At first glance, this is an encouraging statistic. That is until you put into perspective the fact that despite a majority of Australians acknowledging the need to address the issue of littering, we still have not witnessed a significant reduction in littering rates throughout the years. The most likely reason? The same study revealed that only around 60% of Australians actually report littering when they see it. Enforcing rules and regulations for littering can only go so far, and we should all do our part to build a culture of responsible rubbish disposal.

  3. Littering costs the Australian economy over $1.2 billion each year. Why does it cost so much? Well, this number includes cleaning up the mess, dealing with lower property values, and even the impact it can have on tourism. If you had the impression that littering is a societal problem that doesn’t affect you, this should remind you that it affects us all. After all, our taxes are what fund these clean-ups!

  4. Litterers in Australia can face fines of up to $5,000 for individuals and up to $10,000 for corporations. It should go without saying that littering is considered a crime in Australia. These substantial fines emphasise the seriousness with which Australia regards littering. Although they may appear harsh, they are necessary to discourage bad actors from doing so.
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  1. Australians are more likely to litter if they see other people littering. A study conducted by the University of Melbourne uncovered this interesting behavioural habit in Aussies. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why littering is such a difficult issue to solve — it’s not easy to track, and if not called out, it could subconsciously become an acceptable social norm.

  2. The Australian Government has several initiatives to reduce littering. Among these initiatives, two noteworthy programs stand out: the National Litter Strategy and the Clean Beaches Program. The National Litter Strategy brings together federal, state, and local governments, as well as businesses, communities, and environmental organisations, to try and prevent litter at its source by raising public awareness and improving waste management systems. With a focus on cleaning up the nation’s many coastal areas, the Clean Beaches Program supports local communities in implementing sustainable practices, managing litter, and conserving coastal ecosystems — encouraging responsible behaviour among beachgoers.

  3. The most littered state in Australia is New South Wales. As the state with the most urban areas, NSW consistently ranks as the most littered state in the country. Victoria and Queensland are closely behind NSW in terms of littering rates. On the brighter side, the Northern Territory stands out as the least littered state in Australia. This distinction can be partially attributed to its lower population density compared to the eastern states.
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Keep Australia Litter-Free with Ridly

These startling facts about littering in Australia should be setting off alarm bells in your head. The environmental consequences, health hazards, and financial burdens caused by littering demand our immediate attention and action at both the individual level and the societal level.

But while the statistics may seem daunting, there is hope. As a responsible waste management company, our team at Ridly are committed to doing our part to combat this issue.

Whether it's cleaning up after a community event or ensuring that your business premises remain litter-free, we want to be your go-to for an affordable and effective rubbish removal service that you can rely on whenever you need junk cleared.

So, the next time you’re thinking about tossing something, consider Ridly for help — we can remove your rubbish on the same day and get it to where it belongs.

Let Ridly give you a hand

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