Tackling roadside litter in the second largest local government area in NSW

Roadside litter is an ongoing focus for the NSW Government and local councils across the state.

For the team at Blacktown City Council in western Sydney – the second largest council in NSW by population – a holistic approach has been proven to work best in managing roadside litter in a community of more nearly 370,000 rate payers.

Council collaboration and a regional approach

To help combat litter along long roads, Brendon Andrei the Clean Cities Project Officer for Blacktown City Council advocates:

  • anti-littering signage
  • interventions at fast food outlets
  • community education
  • adequate infrastructure combined with enforcement
  • and cleansing.

“We’ve taken part in regional roadside litter projects with the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils (WSROC), our neighbouring councils, NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) and the NSW EPA,” Brendon said.

“This regional approach to the problem allows us to display consistent messaging on billboards across the region which helps to influence commuters. Through the partnership with RMS we were also able to identify litter hotspots and improve cleansing of the roadways,” he said.

Council regularly uses social media to promote litter prevention programs.

“The comments left by the community on our Facebook posts often inform our future programs,” he said.

“One comment that commonly appeared on our anti-littering posts was ‘I litter because it keeps someone in a job’. So, in response, we developed an entire campaign which aimed to dispel this myth. The campaign featured the various council staff whose work time is wasted picking up litter rather than doing their actual job, such as our Bushland and Wetland Maintenance staff and the Open Space Maintenance Team.”

Regarding the actual removal of roadside litter, Blacktown City Council combats this in several different ways.

“Litter on grass road verges is picked up by our staff prior to mowing to avoid turning the litter into confetti and we also have a number of street sweepers who drive street by street, sweeping up litter, leaves and soil from the gutter and they do a great job collecting litter before it goes down the drain,” Brendon said.

“There is over 1,400km of local roads in our city so it takes a while to get to every street. Should litter get washed or blown down a roadside drain, it may be captured in one of our 300-plus gross pollutant traps that we have across the city,” he said.

“In the past 12 months, our pollutant traps across the city have captured around 1,100 tonnes of litter from stormwater.

“Without our collaboration with NSW EPA, WSROC and our neighbouring councils we wouldn’t have been able to achieve what we have in reducing litter in western Sydney.

“The numerous partnerships, collaboration and consistent messaging across the region has been a key element to our success. Together, we have highlighted the importance of this issue and we are well on our way to achieve the Premier’s priority of a 40% reduction of litter in NSW.”

Littering hotspots

sign outside a local business asking customers to put their rubbish in the bin

Within the Blacktown City Council area, industrial areas are considered a hotspot for littering. To combat the issue, Council developed and promoted an ‘Industrial Pride’ project.

“We engaged with local businesses in these areas to help them recognise the litter problem and motivate them to take action,” Brendon Andrei said.

“We encouraged them to regularly remove litter from their nature strips and report issues such as littering and illegal dumping or graffiti.

“Main roads which are close to the exit of a motorway or fast food outlet located on them are usually quite littered also.

“To help reduce littering in these areas, we’ve partnered with neighbouring McDonalds and KFC outlets and have installed signage in their drive-through to influence the litter disposal behaviour of their customers.

electronic roadside sign warning patrols target littering 

“We also conduct regular enforcement in these areas and find that almost all of the people who we fine for littering in these locations are not from our local area.”

Brendon Andrei said litter is constantly found and removed within a 50-metre radius of convenience stores in Blacktown’s central business districts.

“The main items littered in these areas are cigarette butts, $1 coffee cups and frozen drink cups,” Brendon said.

“We’ve used a combination of community education, chalk art, cleansing and enforcement to reduce littering of specifically cigarette butts in these areas.”

Impact of Container Deposit Scheme (CDS)

Thanks to the Container Deposit Scheme, container litter is decreasing significantly. However, this is resulting in many local government areas reporting other streams of litter as representing a larger proportion of roadside litter.

For Blacktown City Council, they’ve seen coffee cups, straws, serviettes and takeaway related items now accounting for a greater proportion of the volume in litter counts.

“It’s important to note that although CDS containers previously accounted for a high volume in litter counts, they were only a small proportion of the littered items,” Brendon Andrei said.

“Council has always found small soft plastics such as lolly wrappers, small bits of paper and cigarette butts make up the highest number of littered items. However, I’ve seen a consistent decrease in all littered items over the last few years,” he said.

“Disposable coffee cups are probably the only item which is being littered more frequently.”

Community support all important

Brendon Andrei said the support of the local community is very important in playing a role in keeping Blacktown City clean.

“We have a large number of motivated residents who want to ensure litterers are made accountable for their poor behaviour,” Brendon said.

“1,896 Blacktown City residents have registered with the Report to EPA program and have reported 2,641 incidents of littering in our area,” he said.

“Blacktown residents are now more aware that they can be reported for littering, so they are more likely to do the right thing and put their rubbish in the bin.”