Litter prevention program evaluation

The evaluation found that the program was effective and has lead to a considerable reduction of litter in NSW.

The $50 million Program supported the delivery of the:

  • Don’t be a Tosser! campaign and its previous iterations
  • Return and Earn container deposit scheme
  • over $11 million in grants to local government and community groups
  • the establishment and implementation of the Report to EPA littering from vehicle program
  • The development of the first Cigarette Butt Litter Prevention Program – a best practice framework based on behavioural observations of smokers’ butt disposals.

The evaluation has found the Program has been effective in delivering key outcomes with favourable ratings across all program areas and key pillars of activities. Based on the National Litter Index data the Program has contributed to a 43% litter reduction in NSW since 2013–14.

Read the final report: Litter Prevention Program 2012–2021 Evaluation (PDF 15MB).

The evaluation has made several recommendations for future program development. EPA’s response to these recommendations is outlined below.

Evaluation Recommendation

EPA Response

EPA Action

1. Ensure responsiveness to stakeholder needs

Develop deeper connections with the community and ensure that programs can adapt and be integrated with local initiatives and needs. This will help make programs community driven.


As part of the NSW Government’s $38 million commitment towards litter programs under the Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041 the EPA will continue to fund and expand the community litter prevention grants program and build partnerships with key community organisations. EPA will ensure community groups continue to be involved in developing future aspects of the NSW Litter Prevention Program.

Deliver advocacy and engagement with governments (federal, state and local) to maintain litter as a core policy priority.


EPA participates on an interstate litter prevention working group with key state and territory jurisdictions. The working group will be used to progress advice and support for further prioritisation of litter across all levels of government.

Improve integration and communication between programs both within the Litter Prevention Unit, the EPA, and with other agencies, including the sharing of emerging trends and lessons learned from program delivery.


The EPA will develop a communication plan to support the overarching Litter Prevention Strategy.

A new Litter Prevention Data Framework due for release in 2022 to clarify how data will be used across the litter journey to guide opportunities for integration with programs across the EPA and wider government.

Future program design is currently being undertaken in collaboration with other business units across the EPA, and external stakeholder co-design sessions are planned in early 2022 to ensure opportunities for wider program integration.

Ensure that programs are designed with scope for their adaptation to future needs and policy priorities.


EPA will develop a scenarios paper to assess litter trends, emerging issues and future litter prevention solutions. The outcomes will be used to support long-term program decision making.

Develop an integrated communications plan across the portfolio to minimise duplication of resources, harmonise messaging (and timing of messaging) across pillars of activity and link program activities so that learnings and information are fed back into communications material evolution.


Agreed, as noted at c) above

Develop approaches for systematic and ongoing measurement of engagement and advocacy activities with stakeholders to support the delivery of the above recommendations.


EPA to include engagement and advocacy metric into new litter program monitoring and evaluation framework.

Develop an advocacy strategy for engagement with Commonwealth agencies to address litter at a national level, and to improve the engagement of Commonwealth agencies with stakeholders.


EPA will integrate “commonwealth engagement” activity into future considerations of Litter Prevention Partnerships, being undertaken as part of the Waste and Sustainable Materials Strategy 2041.

Develop a proactive response to the removal of litter as a state level priority, and to the impact on this on funding of waste initiatives for councils and ROCs. This may include funding, advocacy and/ or awareness campaigns to maintain the profile of litter as an issue.


A total cost of litter study is underway. EPA will use these results to engage with key stakeholders to maintain the profile of litter prevention.

Continue to invest and support the measurement of economic impacts of litter as a means of assessing the value of litter prevention programs and to catalyse support from stakeholders.


As noted above, a total cost of litter study is underway. It is intended to continue to capture litter data across future years.

Consider (alongside the communications plan) ways to further enable and support localisation and innovation in communications materials for targeted program delivery that retain key messaging while resonating with targeted communities. The CALD and Aboriginal-focused Tosser materials represent an example of this that can be built upon in enabling groups and LGAs to use and adapt this material.


EPA will ensure key stakeholders are involved in development of all future creative campaigns and assets.

2. Continue research into trends and program options

Consider enshrining research as an element of the strategy, either as a standalone pillar or as an expansion of Monitoring and Evaluation.


EPA will incorporate a focus on research within the new litter prevention strategy as part of the monitoring and evaluation pillar, with a detailed scope outlined.

Continue research into ways to encourage reporting, perceptions of enforcement, and how to shift perceptions and behaviours around littering.


This is part of business as usual.

Consider the role of enforcement as part of a broader strategy, and whether this represents a cost-effective contribution to reducing litter.


EPA has recently completed research into enforcement efficacy in litter prevention. This research will be used to develop a Litter Enforcement Plan to support the overarching strategy.

Investigate the possibility of diminishing returns on investment and the behavioural effects from sustained campaigns and programs


A cost benefit analysis will continue to be completed prior to each campaign as a requirement of the campaign peer review process.

Investigate impacts of broader trends (e.g. changes in smoking behaviours such as hand-rolling and vaping) on littering patterns.


As noted above, the EPA will develop a scenarios paper to assess trends, emerging issues and future litter prevention solutions.

Research the impacts of COVID-19 on single use items and supply chains and investigate the potential impacts on existing and future targets.


EPA will continue to monitor litter through existing data frameworks, and with a further focus on emerging issues such as face masks. EPA will complete an analysis of waste throughput over the whole life cycle from production to understand emerging waste and litter items.

Investigate ways to map out activities and infrastructure in communities, to help target initiatives and grants


EPA will map overall litter prevention activities and grant funding with available litter data across NSW to provide insights, improve equity in funding and ensure efficient and effective allocation of resources.

Investigate and develop ways to engage and empower individuals and communities to deliver “citizen science” activities using tools such as the Local Litter Check.


EPA to conduct a review of technology available for litter collection, reporting systems and applications to inform future program design.

3. Improve systems for reporting and sharing data

Develop stronger tools for application, management and reporting that are user-friendly and encourage quality reporting.


This is now being implemented through the SmartyGrants program and ongoing evaluation and enhancement of application forms and reporting tools (e.g. Report a Tosser).

Develop an integrated system for gathering and analysis of data across programs, including considering whole of program dashboards


Current litter program dashboards exist for grant funding, litter data and report to EPA. EPA will review existing dashboards to determine opportunities and value of integration.