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.