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What is littering?

Littering is the unlawful disposal of any type of domestic or commercial waste material of an amount less than 200 litres in volume (about the volume of an average wheelie bin).

Common types of littering activity include:

  • cigarette butts, drink bottles and fast food packaging thrown out of a vehicle or vessel
  • material falling off a trailer because it was uncovered or poorly secured
  • grass clippings swept into a gutter
  • food scraps thrown into a garden in a park
  • fishing tackle left behind
  • leaving items beside an overflowing bin
  • leaving items under your seat at a sports stadium
  • leaving a free newspaper on public transport
  • household goods left on the footpath in the hope that someone else will take it.

Dangerous littering is litter that causes, or is likely to cause, harm to a person, property or the environment. This may include throwing a lit cigarette butt into bushland, leaving a hypodermic needle in a park, or smashing a glass bottle on the footpath.

The delivery of junk mail (unsolicited advertising material (UAM)) and free newspapers are not classed as littering. UAM is managed separately and has its own specific management obligations.

Why is littering a problem?

Littering has serious environmental impacts and is a considerable resource and financial burden for government, business and the community. Queensland is consistently one of the worst mainland states for number of littered items. In particular cigarette butts account for almost 50% of all littered items found in the environment.1

Littered items are one of the most visible forms of pollution in the environment. It makes our communities appear dirty and uncared for, unpleasant to be in, and less likely to be used by the public. It also adversely impacts on the environment. Litter dropped in streets, along the side of the road, or in bushland can be washed or blown into creeks and rivers and ultimately pollutes land, waterways and ocean environments.

Litter can be responsible for injuring or killing wildlife—they can become entangled in fishing line and other plastics, or mistake plastic for food.

1 Macgregor Tan Research prepared for Keep Australia Beautiful (July 2013) National Litter Index 2012/13.

See it, report it, stop it

The Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 gives people the opportunity to report a littering or illegal dumping incident that occurs from a motor vehicle, trailer or vessel. 

If someone reports a littering incident that has occurred from a vehicle, vessel or trailer, the department will investigate the incident. If sufficient evidence has been provided to support the complaint, a penalty infringement notice (PIN) will be issued to the registered owner of the vehicle. PINs for littering start at $235, refer to Queensland's littering and illegal dumping laws for further information on the different fine amounts.

Last updated
30 June 2015