About littering

Each year, over 25,000 tonnes of litter is tossed in NSW. But we can make a difference. Reducing littering is important for the health of the environment and of our communities. Everyone is responsible for their own litter, and if you litter you can be fined. The EPA wants everyone to know that littering is socially and environmentally unacceptable, and it is easy to do something about it. 

Littering is against the law

The law says you litter when you discard material in a way that makes a place more disorderly or has detrimental effects on the use of that place.

You are responsible for your own litter

If no bin is at hand, you must keep your rubbish until you find a bin. You cannot rely on other people to clean up your litter. Littering includes

  • throwing food wrappers or cigarette butts from a vehicle
  • leaving a food container under a park bench
  • stubbing a cigarette onto a footpath
  • tossing an apple core into a garden bed (though biodegradable, items like apples still pollute; compost them or put them in the bin)
  • allowing soil, sand or garden waste to blow from a moving vehicle

Aggravated or dangerous littering

To better protect the community, greater penalties apply to aggravated or dangerous littering that threatens public safety or the environment, including

  • discarded syringes
  • lit cigarettes
  • intentionally broken glass

Fines for general littering

Littering is subject to a tiered range of fines under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997

  • $80 for littering small items, such as bottle tops and cigarette butts
  • $250 for general littering
  • $250 for an individual littering from a vehicle ($500 for corporations)
  • $450 for littering in aggravated or dangerous circumstances, such as depositing a syringe or a lit cigarette ($900 for corporations).
  • For more information see POEO Amendment Regulation 2014: Fees and Penalty Notices

Advertising and litter

NSW's litter laws also apply to advertising material (any paper product — including a leaflet, brochure or magazine — or other material thing that contains advertising or promotional matter).

If you unlawfully deliver advertising material, you can be fined. You can also be prosecuted or fined if you ask someone to unlawfully deliver advertising material. Employers can be held responsible for their employees' actions.

 Under the law, you can only deposit advertising material in three ways

  • directly into people's letterboxes
  • into newspaper receptacles
  • under doors to premises

If advertising material is too big, deliverers should put it in a sensible place, such as a place indicated by the householder, or where it won't become litter if the wind blows.

(Note: the laws about littering and distribution of advertising do not regulate how advertising material is deposited within buildings.)

The rules on advertising and ‘No junk mail’ signs

It is not against the law to put advertising into mailboxes with 'No junk mail' signs, but it is against the distribution industry's Code of Practice. Distributors should respect people's wishes not to receive this material. For more information about the Code of Practice call 1800 676 136 or email dsb@catalogue.asn.au.

Posters on buildings or telegraph poles

NSW's litter laws only apply to posters when they fall off, or are likely to fall off, and create litter.

Otherwise, bill postering falls under the Graffiti Control Act 2008. Under the law, you commit an offence if you affix a bill poster without first obtaining the property owner's consent. If you break the law, you can be fined $440 (under Section 6 of the Act).

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