Litter data and targets

To effectively prevent litter, you need to understand the litter problem, set targets and track progress over time. Regular research, data collection and monitoring help the EPA ensure NSW's litter prevention strategies are working well to achieve state-wide litter reduction targets.

NSW litter data

The NSW litter data framework uses a range of data to inform litter programs. Up to 2020 the EPA relied on the National Littered Index (NLI), a land-based litter measure. The Key Littered Items Study (KLIS) is now the key monitoring program.

KLIS counts litter in urban estuaries, collecting samples from mangroves that act as natural litter traps and have a higher concentration of litter than nearby urban areas. KLIS can provide richer detail on litter than the NLI, and a fuller picture of loads and composition.

The Australia Litter Measure (AusLM) will replace the NLI as a new land-based count of litter from 2022 onwards. It has been designed to be more easily related to the estuarine litter data that the KLIS samples, and to provide a fuller understanding of the movement of litter from land to se

NSW litter targets

NSW litter reduction targets are outlined in the Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041 and the NSW Plastics Action Plan. They are:

  • target 1: a 30% reduction in plastic litter items by 2025
  • target 2: a 60% reduction in all litter items by 2030.

These targets focus on tracking litter loads by items, whereas previous NSW targets focused on volume. This report gives details of both items and volume.

Note: The former Premier’s Priority target to reduce litter volume by 40% by 2020 was achieved with a 43% reduction in litter volume from the baseline year 2013–14. With volume now substantially reduced, the NSW Government has set item‑based targets to ensure a renewed focus on small, problematic litter items that are more likely to leak into the environment and waterways.


The baseline for these targets is the combined eight quarterly counts across 2018 and 2019 using the KLIS.

Baseline litter composition by category (items), 2018 and 2019 data

Baseline litter composition by category (items), 2018 and 2019 data

Litter reduction baseline and targets


Baseline (2018 + 2019)

Target value

30% reduction in plastic litter items by 2025

158 items per 1,000m2

111 items per 1,000m2
(by 2024–25)

60% reduction in all litter items by 2030

190 items per 1000m2

76 items per 1000m2
(by 2029–30)

The Key Littered Items Study

The Key Littered Items Study (KLIS) is a long-term monitoring program that shows which types and quantities of marine debris can be found in NSW coastal and marine waters.

The KLIS started in 2017 and surveys are currently conducted quarterly. The KLIS monitoring sites are:

  • in mangroves in urban estuaries
  • on some remote beaches.

The sites span the full length of the NSW coast.

KLIS data is collected by the Department of Planning and Environment’s Coastal and Marine Science Division. It is entered into an EPA dashboard and analysed by the EPA Litter Prevention Unit.

To learn more about the KLIS, please visit the Department of Environment and Planning’s webpage on the project.

The Key Littered Item Study is currently the key data set that the NSW EPA is using to track progress against state litter targets as set out in the Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy.

KLIS reports will be published annually and will:

  • show progress towards targets
  • inform litter prevention program and policy responses.
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