Litter & Illegal Dumping
Littering and illegal dumping are major issues in Townsville and are the most visible indicators of pollution in our environment. The waste from litter and illegal dumping can be present in all environments from footpaths, roadsides, beaches, parklands, car parks, waterways, natural areas, vacant blocks and in isolated areas such as bushland reserves and national park. The illegal dumped items are:
- material that is thoughtlessly dropped or left behind
- material placed beside an overflowing bin
- trailer loads that are poorly secured
- material that is actively driven to an isolated location and dumped.
“Litter and illegal dumping are two very distinct activities, generally with different motivations, barriers, participants and locations. Both activities have a range of effects on our communities from unsightly aesthetics and clean-up costs, to detrimental impacts on our environment and human health. Their distinct characteristics mean that they require different approaches to their management and intervention.” - Queensland’s Litter and Illegal Dumping Action Plan
Littering is defined under the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 as the deposit of less than 200L in volume.
Common items that are considered as litter include:
- cigarette butts
The Litter information sheet has more information.
Dangerous littering is defined under the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 as “depositing waste that causes or is likely to cause harm to a person, property or the environment”.
Examples of dangerous littering include:
- throwing a lit cigarette onto dry grass in extreme fire danger conditions
- smashing a bottle and leaving the broken glass on a footpath
- leaving a syringe in a public place other than in a container intended for receiving used syringes.
Illegal dumping is defined under the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 as the unlawful deposit of any type of waste material that is 200L or more in volume.
Common types of illegal dumping includes:
- domestic household bags of rubbish and garden waste
- household goods (such as whitegoods, mattresses and furniture)
- building (construction and demolition) materials
- abandoned cars and car parts
- hazardous waste such as asbestos, tyres or chemical drums.
The Illegal Dumping information sheet has more information.
Impacts of littering and illegal dumping
Littering and illegal dumping of waste imposes substantial costs on society including human health, environmental harm and diversion of money to clean-up activities that could otherwise be spent more productively elsewhere. Additionally, litter and illegal dumping can:
- contain broken glass, syringes, nappies, medical waste and toxic substances like asbestos
- attract rodents, insects and other vermin
- provide an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes
- block waterways and stormwater drains, increasing the potential for flooding and erosion
- be a potential fire hazard
- attract further dumping
- attract other antisocial and illegal activities
- decrease community pride and intensify the problem
- lead to a build up of waste next to roads that can block gutters
- be washed or blown into creeks, rivers and onto beaches where it harms and kills wildlife, e.g. plastic waste can choke and suffocate birds and marine life
- spread pests and weeds, including fire ants and lantana, if it contains materials such as soil and garden waste
- contribute to algae blooms in waterways if it contains organic waste such as food scraps.
Cigarette butts are only small, but make up more than a third of the total number of items littered. Plastic cigarette filters end up in waterways and can be swallowed by marine animals. These animals will slowly choke to death. Cigarette butts littered from motor vehicles can also start bush fires - costing lives and damaging property.
Queensland littering laws and penalties
Local governments and the Department of Environment and Science (DES) have a shared responsibility for litter and illegal dumping enforcement. Authorised officers from Council and DES can issue fines and notices for litter and illegal dumping offences.
The Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 includes a range of offences for litter and illegal dumping, including:
- general littering
- littering from a vehicle
- dangerous littering
- illegal dumping
- failing to clean up waste.
Reporting littering and illegal dumping
Council encourages everyone to report littering and illegal dumping.
Reporting litter or illegal dump sites
Contact Council's Customer Service Centre and lodge a report, which will then be directed to the Environmental Health and Regulatory Services Team to investigate.
Report witnessing littering and illegal dumping from vehicles
If you witness a person littering or illegally dumping waste from a vehicle, trailer or vessel, report it to the Department of Environment and Science (DES) by completing the Littering and Illegal Dumping Reporting Form on their website.
Ensure you take note of the following in order to report the event:
- the vehicle or vessel's registration number, make and colour
If you would like further information about litter and illegal dumping please visit the Department of Environment and Science website.