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EPA work to prevent littering

Find out about the EPA's work against littering, and how we can help you or your community group fight litter in your area.

The EPA works with local councils, community groups, businesses, state agencies and other partners to target the most-littered items and locations. We do this by providing funding for better bins and litter clean ups, education and awareness campaigns and enforcement to hold litterers to account.

Prevent litter everyday

The EPA's litter research shows that 87% of NSW residents think litter is an important issue. It's easy to prevent litter every day:

  • put your rubbish in a bin
  • take your rubbish with you if no bin is available
  • keep a bag in your car to collect rubbish
  • put your cigarette butt in a butt bin, or an ordinary litter bin when extinguished
  • keep a container in your car to collect cigarette butts
  • buy less packaging and use reusable containers

You can also:

Don't be a Tosser! litter prevention campaign

Don’t be a Tosser! builds on the Hey Tosser! approach and moves the conversation to an internal dialogue. It’s based on research that shows we need to continue to evolve the conversation with the community about the litter. The focus is no longer on the witness to drive behaviour change, but instead places responsibility for littering on the individual.  

The new Don’t be a Tosser! website offers an interactive and fun journey to uncover the shocking consequences of tossing. Discover:

  • how much microplastic you could be consuming each week
  • what happens to a turtle if it eats just one piece of plastic
  • how much plastic is in the ocean
  • how long it takes a cigarette to break apart
  • how far rubbish can travel
  • the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Don't be a Tosser website

Report a Tosser campaign

Report a Tosser! is part of the Don’t be a Tosser! campaign and raises awareness that anyone can report littering from vehicles. It’s also used as part of an enforcement campaign to make tossers aware that they can be seen and fined.

Marine litter campaign

In early 2021 the marine litter campaign, as part of the Don't be a Tosser campaign, reinforced the reasons to be responsible for your rubbish and put it in the bin, by demonstrating the connection that litter on land ends up in waterways and ‘why’ it matters.

The campaign was supported by funding under the Marine Estate Management Strategy.

The EPA's Litter Prevention Program

The NSW Government has released the new Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041, outlining how NSW will transition towards a circular economy. As part of this strategy the NSW Government has set 2 new litter targets:

  1. 30% reduction in plastic litter by 2025, and
  2. 60% of all litter items by 2030.

This has been backed by $38 million over the next 5 years to support programs and projects that deliver these targets. This funding will support programs guided by the NSW Litter Prevention Strategy. These programs include:

Return and Earn

The NSW container deposit scheme, Return and Earn is the largest litter reduction scheme introduced in NSW.

Return and Earn began rolling out across NSW on 1 December 2017 in response to the Premier's goal of reducing the volume of litter in the state by 40% by 2020. At the time, drink container litter made up 44% of the volume of all litter in the state and cost more than $162 million to manage.

The EPA believes everyone can do something to reduce litter and change litter behaviour in NSW. EPA funding helps local councils and community groups to target our most-littered items and locations.

Read about the grants and how to apply:

Have a look at litter prevention grant case studies for inspiration on what can be done when we work together to reduce litter.

Research and evaluation

Regular research and evaluation help the EPA ensure NSW's litter laws and prevention strategies are working well, to better protect the community and the environment.

Key Littered Items Study

The Key Littered Items Study is a long-term program for monitoring marine debris along the NSW coast which shows what types and quantities of marine debris can be found in our coastal and marine waters.

The data is being used to track new litter targets for NSW in the Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy (WASM): a 30% reduction in the number of plastic litter items by 2025 and a 60% reduction in all litter items by 2030.

Bottles to track litter movement

During March 2017, the EPA released 40 GPS-tracked plastic bottles into waterways across NSW. The results show the community where litter can end up when it is thoughtlessly discarded onto streets, highways and beaches, or into waterways. 

Reducing cigarette butt litter

The EPA is committed to reducing cigarette butt litter and littering behaviour. We have completed extensive research into understanding cigarette butt littering behaviour and developed resources to help understand and tackle cigarette butt litter.

Find out more about research, tools and programs to reduce cigarette butt littering.

EPA litter enforcement campaigns

Throughout the year, the EPA runs campaigns to raise community awareness and enforce littering laws. To hold litterers to account, council rangers and state agencies issue fines for littering, year round. The EPA can also issue fines for littering from vehicles based on reports from members of the public.

Training for enforcement officers

The EPA works with regulatory agencies, particularly local councils, to develop knowledge, skills and resources so they can better enforce litter laws and prevent litter locally.

Training workshops for enforcement officers are conducted through AELERT Professional Development and Training. See the AELERT website  for course dates.

An online learning module is also available via the EPA website.

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