The many paths to compliance
In the last edition of EPA Connect, we discussed the variety of ways the EPA regulates for compliance including programs that can incite behaviour change. Here, we look at the importance of litter research to the design of our programs to reduce littering, the more traditional regulatory enforcement approach of fines, and the making of legislation to assist the EPA’s work.
The cigarette butt behaviour change campaign complements traditional regulatory actions
Litter research leads to kicking butts
As we come into summer and COVID restrictions ease, the issue of litter, like discarded cigarette butts, becomes more concerning. Did you know that over a billion butts are littered in NSW each year?
Not only do these small plastic pests pose a high fire risk if littered, they easily find their way into waterways, threatening wildlife and sea critters.
To change behaviour, first we have to understand it. This has led to an unusual job for some people, observing smoker’s behaviour and logging what they do with their butts. The EPA recently funded a study across NSW to better understand smoker behaviour and attitudes that lead to butt littering.
What did the researchers do and find?
- Visited 114 sites and watched over 3,000 incidents of cigarettes being discarded in public places.
- Interviewed 569 smokers about their perceptions of their smoking area.
- Observed the features of smoking areas to provide insights into the context for encouraging smokers to use bins. This includes the number of bins, site cleanliness, information provided to smokers and the presence of enforcement.
- Found around 64% of these cigarettes were littered while 36% were binned.
- Found that about 57% of butts were “dropped and stomped”, with 17% “flagrantly flung” and 13% “sneakily dropped”.
Cigarette Butt Litter Prevention Grants
Funding is now open for councils, community groups and businesses to analyse butt littering in their local area, educate smokers and implement improved cigarette butt disposal infrastructure eg butt bins, signage, at butt littering hotspots such as transport hubs, pubs and beaches.
The Cigarette Butt Litter Prevention Grants Program is now open. Applications close at 4pm on 8 November 2021.
- Fines of up to $900 can be imposed for cigarette butt litter offences
- Over the past 6 months 1,293 infringement notices for littering from a vehicle were issued.
Living legislation for our environment’s protection
The EPA is continually reviewing, updating or making new legislation to best protect the environment. During this process we rely on input from other departments, industry and the general public to form new guidelines and regulations.
The NSW Government has recently remade the Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation 2010 and Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2009 with minor amendments. This includes administrative changes, such as updating agency names and removing spent provisions. These Regulations are integral to the administration of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997.
Both Regulations are required to be reviewed every five years and this was due by 1 September 2021. This most recent changes are an interim approach and the regulations will need to be replaced by 1 September 2022.
A more comprehensive review of both Regulations is currently underway to ensure the requirements included remain effective into the future.
Find out more
Coal company fined $30K for alleged water pollution offences
The EPA completed three prosecutions between 1 August and 30 September and imposed $180,000 in fines. The following example shows how preventing incidents not only saves our environment but also makes good business sense.
The EPA has fined Mount Thorley Warkworth a total of $30,000 for separate alleged water pollution offences at its Hunter Valley open cut coal pits earlier this year.
Two penalty notices of $15,000 each were issued on consecutive days in January to Mount Thornley Operations Pty Limited for discharging saline and sediment laden water from an unlicenced point, and to Warkworth Mining Limited for a similar unlicenced discharge.
Both incidents occurred during a period of heavy rainfall, causing untreated mine water to be unlawfully discharged into natural drainage lines, to tributaries of the Hunter River.
Sampling conducted by Mount Thorley Warkworth at the time, showed elevated levels of pH in the water and increased salinity and sediment concentration.
“This can cause environmental harm to the surrounding creeks and rivers in the local community, including the Hunter River,” EPA Director Regulatory Operations Adam Gilligan said.
“These fines should serve as a reminder to industry that environmental incidents can come at a cost, and all operations should be planning and preparing for heavy rainfall, to prevent such incidents.”
For more information about the EPA’s regulatory tools, see the EPA Compliance Policy. If you suspect someone is doing the wrong thing, phone the NSW EPA on 131 555.