Litter laws

The Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) is the primary piece of environmental legislation regulating littering in NSW.

What is 'litter' according to the law?

Under section 144A of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) 'litter' includes:

a)      any solid or liquid domestic or commercial refuse, debris or rubbish including any glass, metal, cigarette butts, paper, fabric, wood, food, abandoned vehicles, abandoned vehicle parts, construction or demolition material, garden remnants and clippings, soil, sand or rocks, deposited in or on a place, whether or not it has any value when or after being deposited in or on the place

and

b)      any other material, substance or thing deposited in or on a place if its size, shape, nature or volume makes the place where it has been deposited disorderly or detrimentally affects the proper use of that place.

What is 'depositing litter' according to the law?

Under section 144A of the POEO Act 'depositing litter’ in or on a place includes:

(a) dropping or throwing litter in, on, into or onto the place, or

(b) leaving litter in or on the place, or

(c) putting litter in such a location that it falls, descends, blows, is washed, percolates or otherwise escapes or is likely to fall, descend, blow, be washed, percolate or otherwise escape into or onto the place, or

(d) causing, permitting or allowing litter to fall, descend, blow, be washed, percolate or otherwise escape into or onto the place.

Examples of depositing litter:

  • 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
  • allowing soil, sand or garden waste to blow from a moving vehicle.

Littering offences under the POEO Act (1997)

The littering offences are:

  • littering (including littering from vehicles): depositing litter on land or waters in a public place or an open private place
  • aggravated littering: littering which is reasonably likely to cause or contribute to appreciable danger or harm to any persons, animals, premises or property
  • depositing, or causing someone to deposit, advertising material in a public place or open private place other than in a mail box or under a door; it is illegal to deposit advertising material on property gates or fences or in other inappropriate areas where it has the potential to become litter
  • depositing, or causing someone to deposit, advertising material on any vehicle, e.g. under car windscreen wipers.

Definitions

Public place

In the dictionary of the POEO Act 'public place' includes:

(a) a public place within the meaning of the Local Government Act 1993, and

(b) a State forest or flora reserve within the meaning of the Forestry Act 2012, and

(c) a national park, state recreation area, historic site, nature reserve, state game reserve or Aboriginal area within the meaning of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, and

(d) a place that is open to the public, or is used by the public, whether or not on payment of money or other consideration, whether or not the place is ordinarily so open or used, and whether or not the public to whom the place is so open, or by whom the place is so used, consists only of a limited class of persons.

Examples of public places include railway stations, bus stops, sports venues, parks, roads, footpaths and carparks.

Open private place

Under section 144A of the POEO Act 'open private place' means:

(a) a private place that is situated in or on land and that is not within a building on the land, or

(b) a private place that is situated in or on waters.

Examples of open private places include gardens or yards around private residences or industrial premises, farm or grazing land and privately owned vacant land.

Advertising material

  • Under section 144A of the POEO Act 'advertising material' means any paper product (including a leaflet, brochure or magazine), or other material thing, that contains advertising or promotional matter.

More information

Page last updated