Inner West Council


What is litter?

Litter is any solid waste object that can be held or carried in a person's hand that is left behind or placed in an inappropriate location. Any such material or item disposed in an inappropriate manner is to be regarded as litter.

 Litter ranges from small items such as cigarette butts to large items like a bag of rubbish dumped in a back lane. Other common litter includes drink bottles (plastic, glass and metal), small pieces of paper, chip and confectionery wrappers, fast-food packaging materials, bottle caps and plastic straws.

 In NSW, about 50% of all litter is cigarette butts. 7.2 million cigarette butts are discarded in Australia every year.

 In NSW the most littered sites include shopping centres and along highways.



 Why is litter a problem?

 Litter has many negative impacts on our environment and community. Environmental impacts of litter include:

  •  Litter can directly kill aquatic life through choking, and indirectly through impacts on water quality. Cigarette butts, for example, release toxins into water as they break down.
  • Litter can also kill aquatic life through reducing the amount of oxygen in waterways as it breaks down.
  • Litter reduces the aesthetic appeal of public places

 Other impacts to the community include:

  • Litter can block stormwater drains. This may result in flooding, and costs Council and the community a lot of money to fix.
  • Litter can also be dangerous to people and animals. For example, broken glass, syringes and fish hooks can all cause injuries to people and animals.
  • Litter can also be fire hazard if lit cigarettes are thrown from vehicles.
  • Litter costs the community a lot of money to clean up every year.

 Litter is also a problem because many of the items that are thrown away remain in the environment for a long time, as they take a long time to break down. This table shows the time it takes for some common litter items to break down in the environment: 

Litter item

Time to break down

Glass bottles

1 million years

Monofilament fishing line

600 years

Plastic beverage bottles

450 years

Aluminium can

80 - 200 years

Foam plastic cup

50 years

Plastic bag

10 - 20 years

Cigarette filter

1 - 5 years

Source: US National Park Service; Mote Marine Lab, Sarasota, Florida

What is Council doing about litter?

 Council regularly runs anti-litter campaigns, which aim to educate the community about litter. Council Community Enforcement Officers are responsible for investigation and enforcement of littering in Ashfield, and fines can range from $60 to $750.

 Council regularly cleans the streets in Ashfield, however it is impossible for our machines to pick up every last piece of litter! The best way to reduce litter in the environment is to stop people littering in the first place.


 What can I do about litter?

 Council's message is ‘Don't be a Tosser' - use bins, Council Clean-Ups and take your rubbish with you and dispose of it at home. By everyone making a small effort, we can all help to reduce litter in Ashfield.