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.
Littering and illegal dumping affects the security, safety and environment of our city.
Report Littering or Illegal Dumping
Help us keep Townsville safe and beautiful by reporting to us via Snap Send Solve if you see litter or illegally dumped items.
If you witness a person littering or illegally dumping waste from a vehicle, trailer or vessel, you can report this to the Department of Environment and Science (DES) by completing their Littering and Illegal Dumping Reporting Form. Take note of any information that may be of use for the report, including:
- any identifying information such as a vehicle's registration number, make and colour
- the time and date of the event
- the location the event took place.
Littering and Illegal Dumping
Littered or illegally dumped items include:
- 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.” - Keeping Queensland Clean: the Litter and Illegal Dumping Plan 2021.
Definitions and further information can be found below:
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, paper and plastic.
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. Birds and sea creatures mistake cigarette butts for food and will slowly starve to death. Cigarette butts littered from motor vehicles can also start bush fires - costing lives and damaging property.
- Littering Fact Sheet (PDF, 458.2 KB)
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:
- leaving a syringe in a public place other than in a container intended for receiving used syringes
- smashing a bottle and leaving the broken glass on a footpath
- throwing a lit cigarette onto dry grass in extreme fire danger conditions.
Illegal dumping is defined under the Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 as the unlawful deposit of any type of waste material that is 200 litres or more in volume (which is about the volume of a wheelie bin).
Illegally dumped waste is commonly found along roadsides, and in parklands, beaches, waterways, car parks, vacant blocks of land, and in isolated areas like bushland reserves and national parks.
Common items which are illegally dumped include bags of general household waste, garden waste, building materials, white goods, mattresses, furniture, abandoned vehicles, car parts and tyres.
Illegally dumped items can be a lost resource. Many items that are illegally dumped can be reused or recycled – including organic garden materials, beverage and food containers, white goods, computers, tyres and car bodies.
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:
- attract rodents, insects and other vermin and provide an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.
- block waterways and stormwater drains, increasing the potential for flooding and erosion.
- contain broken glass, syringes, nappies, medical waste and toxic substances like asbestos, and be a potential fire hazard.
- contribute to algae blooms in waterways if it contains organic waste such as food scraps.
- decrease community pride and intensify the problem.
- entice further dumping, as well as other antisocial and illegal activities.
- lead to a build up of waste next to roads that can block gutters.
- spread pests and weeds, including fire ants and lantana, if it contains materials such as soil and garden waste.
- wash or blow into creeks, rivers and onto beaches where it harms and kills wildlife (for example, plastic waste can choke and suffocate birds and marine life).
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:
- dangerous littering
- failing to clean up waste
- general littering
- illegal dumping
- littering from a vehicle.
For more information, visit:
- Abandoned Vehicles (information about vehicle-specific dumping)
- Department of Environment and Science (litter and illegal dumping)
- What Goes in Your Bins and Transfer Stations and Landfill (information on where you can legally take your items)
- Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 (offenses around litter and illegal dumping).