Information Sheet 19 Litter

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					19. LITTER
Did you know?

    
                                                                                  i
         95% of the litter on Melbourne's beaches comes from suburban streets .
    
                                                                      ii
         School sites, on average, are the second most littered areas .
    
                                                                                                iii
         90 tonnes of dog droppings are deposited every day on Melbourne's streets and parks .
    
                                                                                iv
         One in ten cigarette butts ends up in Melbourne's bay or our waterways .
    
                                                                                                         v
         Cigarette butts made up over half the litter found on beaches around Port Phillip Bay since 1998 .
        Local government spent over $41 million on litter in 2000/01, with 74% spent on street sweeping
                                                                 vi
         and the remainder on street litter bins and litter traps .

Litter
Litter is an important environmental issue. It is amazing that 94% of people identify litter as a major
                                                vii
environmental issue and yet people still litter . Carelessly discarded rubbish affects every member of
society: it causes harm to people and animals, damages our waterways, costs us money and suggests that
we do not care for our environment. Fortunately, we can all do something to help prevent and reduce litter.

Where Does Litter Come From?
The Beverage Industry Environment Council (BIEC) commissioned Melbourne-based social psychologists,
Community Change, to conduct research into littering behaviours. Community Change identified the
                                       viii
following types of littering behaviours :

        Foul shooting: Litter is thrown at a bin, it misses the bin and the person walks away
        Clean sweeping / the broom: On arriving at a table where others have littered, waste is swept onto
         the ground
        Flagrant flinging: Litter is through the air or drop without any apparent concern
        90%ing or dual depositing: Most of the rubbish is put into bin, but some is left behind, or smaller
         items are dropped
        Wedging: Pieces of litter are stuffed into gaps between seats and other places
        Grinding: Smokers who grind their cigarettes into the ground
        Inching: Litter is left and the person slowly moves away from it
        Undertaking: Litter is buried, often under sand at the beach


What are the effects of litter?

Litter can cause a whole range of problems for everyone in the community. Litter discarded in streets and
parks can travel through the storm water system to our bays and oceans, where it can cause harm to
wildlife.
      Litter costs money. Removing litter from the environment costs each Victorian local council an
                                                        ix
          average of well over $500,000 every year .
      Litter is a threat to public health. Litter attracts vermin and is a breeding ground for bacteria. Items
          such as broken glass and syringes can be a health hazard in public places.
      Litter can be a fire hazard. Accumulated litter and carelessly discarded cigarette butts are potential
          fire hazards.
      Litter looks bad. Litter negatively affects the image of places, especially tourist locations.
      Litter attracts litter. Litter sends out a message that people do not care for the environment and that
          it is acceptable to litter.
      Litter can harm or kill wildlife. Plastic litter can choke or suffocate birds and marine life. Carelessly
          discarded containers can trap small mammals.
      Litter harms our waterways. Organic matter, such as dog poo, leaves and grass clippings, pollutes
          our waterways.




EcoRecycle Victoria Information Sheet 19 – Litter – modified March 2005
Please think before you print, and remember to print double-sided.
The litter stream
                                                                                         x
Cigarette butts are the most littered item, making up 58% of all items . Cigarette butts have consistently
made the top ten items picked up in the Clean Up Australia Day Rubbish Report since it started in 1990, and
                                                                                xi
made up over half the litter found on beaches around Port Phillip Bay since 1998 .

The Community Change study found that paper products (including wrappers, serviettes and cardboard) and
beverage containers were the next most littered item. Paper products were most commonly littered in tourist
spots and in roadside stops, whereas beverage containers were most likely to be littered at festivals, events
and waterfront sites.

Littering and binning behaviour                                      Figure 1 – Top 10 littered and binned items nationally, 2001


The single most important factor associated with littering
behaviour was the type of object used and discarded by
the person. Other factors, such as attitudes toward the
environment, gender, age, social background,
effectiveness of facilities and distance from a bin appear
to have much less influence on disposal behaviour.

Paper products were the most binned group of items in
all sites, while beverage containers were the next most
common items binned at the beach, waterfront and at
shops.

Cigarette butts were the most littered items across all
site types (58%) and they were the least binned of all
items (10%). Paper product litter was most commonly
littered in tourist spots and in roadside stops, whereas
beverage containers were most likely to be littered at
festivals, events and waterfront sites.

Wedgers, undertakers and foulshooters
When people litter they often exhibit unusual behaviour.
Have you ever seen these litterers in a public place
near you?

Wedgers: Litterers that stuff or wedge their litter in
small places, such as a gap between seats, so it will not
be seen.                                                                  Source: Community Change 2001, Measuring
                                                                          Environmentally Desirable Behaviour, Beverage Industry
                                                                          Environment Council Published Littering Behaviour Study III,
Undertakers: Litterers that cover or bury their litter                    p. 64.
under soil, sand or leaves.
Foulshooters: People, who aim for the bin, miss and leave the object on the ground.

Why do people litter?
If we can understand why people litter we can help stop the litter problem. The reasons people might litter
include:
      Not everyone agrees on what is litter. Organic items are least likely to be regarded as litter. Over
         one third of people do not regard an apple core as litter, and roughly a quarter believe that dog
                                        xii
         droppings are not litter either . However, virtually all people regard bottles, cans and food wrappers
         as litter.
      Laziness. More than half of all littering occurs within five metres of a bin .
                                                                                     xiii

      Deliberate action. Often litter is not simply left behind, but placed carefully in chosen locations by
         wedgers or undertakers.
      The design and location of bins. People are more likely to leave objects in the open beside an
         overflowing bin.
      Insufficient bins. Often there is no bin nearby and it is inconvenient to hold onto the waste.
      Habit and forgetfulness.
EcoRecycle Victoria Information Sheet 19 – Litter – modified March 2005
Please think before you print, and remember to print double-sided.
         Non-availability of ashtrays. No ashtray or bin is available for cigarette butts.

What's the solution?
There are a number of simple ways to help prevent littering.
    Use litter bins properly if provided. Make sure your waste goes in the bin, not beside it.
    Bring your own bin. Carry a litterbag in your car for collecting rubbish.
    Take your litter home when visiting parks and gardens. Wind and animals scavenging in bins can
       often lead to littering in our parks.
    Pick up rubbish, do not flush it away. Sweep paved areas and pick up all the rubbish, rather than
       hosing it down into gutters and drains. All rubbish in gutters works its way into the bay.
    Secure bins and recycling crates ready for collection to prevent wind blown litter.
    Pack a rubbish free lunch with reusable plastic containers and water bottles rather than bags and
       drink boxes.

Weblinks
         Environmental Protection Authority http://www.epa.vic.gov.au
         Keep Australia Beautiful Victoria http://www.kabv.org.au
         Melbourne Water http://melbournewater.com.au
         Victorian Litter Action Alliance http://www.litter.vic.gov.au
         Beverage Industry Environment Council (BIEC) http://www.biec.com.au


Endnotes
i
  Melbourne Water, Care about the Bay and Backyard to the Bay brochures.
ii
   Keep Australia Beautiful Victoria website, www.kabv.org.au, Accessed July 2004
iii
    Melbourne Water, Care about the Bay and Backyard to the Bay brochures.
iv
    Ibid
v
    Environmental Protection Authority Victoria 2002, Beach Report Summer 2001–2002, Environment Protection Authority Victoria,
Australia.
vi
    EcoRecycle Victoria 2002, Municipal Data Collection 2000/01
vii
     Beverage Industry Environment Council 2003, Littering Behaviour Study, National benchmark 2002, Australia
viii Victorian Litter Action Alliance website, www.litter.vic.gov.au, accessed March 2005.
ix
    EcoRecycle Victoria 2002, Municipal Data Collection 2000/01
x
   Curnow R & Community Change 2001, Measuring Environmentally Desirable Behaviour, Beverage Industry Environment Council
Littering Behaviour Study III
xi
    Environmental Protection Authority Victoria 2002, Beach Report Summer 2001–2002, Environment Protection Authority Victoria,
Australia.
xii
     Williams E, Curnow R, & Steker P 1997, Understanding Littering Behaviour in Australia, Beverage Industry Environment Council,
Littering Behaviour Study
xiii
     Ibid




EcoRecycle Victoria Information Sheet 19 – Litter – modified March 2005
Please think before you print, and remember to print double-sided.