What Individuals Can Do About Litter

​​​​​​​​​​​​Reducing litter is everyone's responsibility - on a personal level and as part of the Tasmanian community.  ​​​​​​

Personal action - putting the I in action​

children collecting litter

Everyone can make a difference – at work, at school, at home.​

There are plenty of simple opportunities for each of us to minimise our impact on the environment and keep our State litter free, by taking responsibility for the waste that we generate and preventing it from becoming litter.  We could even pick up other people’s litter.​

For inspiring examples about individuals taking action have a look at the '104 or More' Litter Initiative where citizens are given a cloth bag and tongs, and encouraged to pick up at least two items of litter per week e.g. on their walks.  So, over one year, people have picked up at least 104 items.

In Tasmania, the Great South West Wilderness Cleanup​ has been conducted since 2006: in the last cleanup, 112,117 pieces of rubbish were retrieved over 8 days by a team of around 24 people. Volunteers travel to the remote south west Tasmania by fishing boat, and generous skippers bring waste to Hobart to be properly disposed of. The cleanup is sponsored by Patagonia and many local Tasmanian sponsors.

​Especially with the advent and use of social media, there has been a burgeoning of community-based litter cleanups, usually on beaches, around Australia. For example, the Northern Beaches Clean Up Crew in Sydney meets on the last Sunday of every month, to clean up various beaches.

Seaside Scavenge​, which also began in Sydney, is an initiative whereby ten items of litter from waterways can be traded with one token: two tokens can be swapped for an item of donated clothing.  Music, workshops and talks are also provided, to make the scavenge days fun. To date, more than 5000 people have participated in the Seaside Scavenge.

​Clean Up Australia Day happens every year in March. There is likely to be a collection in your neighbourhood.  You could sign up to collect litter or even be a site co-ordinator.

Report ru​​bbish and ​​littering

If you see someone littering from a motor vehicle or a vessel you can report it. If you have found dumped rubbish, you can use the Report Rubbish web application, in order to have the area cleaned up.

Cigarette​​ ​​butt litter

Cigarette butts may seem small, but they are the most littered item, by count.  With the number littered, their impact on our environment adds up. Butts contains the remnants of tobacco, paper and the filter: the residue in the butts contain some toxic and soluble chemicals. Butts travel through the stormwater system into our waterways and eventually into the sea where they can harm wildlife that mistake them for food.

Cigarette butts easily become litter and in urban areas it is not unusual to see huge numbers of cigarette butts discarded outside office buildings and at public transport stops. Dealing with cigarette butt litter through street cleaning regimes, installation of special butt bins and stormwater traps is costly for councils. Flicked butts can cause bushfires in the summer season.

Smokers can be responsible for their butts by using special butt bins installed around local areas or by carrying and using a personal ashtray. 

Packa​​​ging and litter - refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle

These days many things come wrapped and packaged for our safety or convenience. A growing population, a consumer society and the increase in single-use throw-away durable packaging all contribute to packaging as a major source of litter.  

Plastic is a particular problem since is it a common material and it is a material that is designed to last. The impacts of plastic litter on both marine and land based animals are well known. To help reduce plastic items from becoming litter, spoiling the environment and maiming wildlife play your part by: 

  • refusing, or reducing the use of single-use disposable plastic
  • disposing of plastic litter appropriately 

Beverage containers make up around 41 per cent of litter by volume in Tasmania.  To reduce the use of drink containers and coffee cups, consider purchasing and using a reusable drink bottle, a ‘keep cup’ and you could even purchase a washable, reusable drinking straw. 

Make beeswax wraps to wrap your sandwiches, rather than using cling wrap.

Refuse to buy plastic shopping bags if you are purchasing only a few items. Re-use plastic shopping bags or use your own cloth alternative instead. Become a discerning shopper and avoid excess packaging - or choose packaging that can be easily recycled. 

The Tasmanian Government will implement a Container Refund Scheme (CRS) by 2022, which means that beverage containers will be able to be refunded, for their recycling.  This is part of the Tasmanian Government commitment to protect Tasmania’s unique natural environment, provide opportunities to community groups and local businesses, and to help maintain the Tasmanian brand. 

​Chewing g​​um - a sticky issue!

Chewing gum is very sticky. It will stick wherever it is dropped or placed and does not rot away. Gum litter is very difficult and expensive to remove - be it from clothes or footpaths. Also, the methods used - solvents and steam cleaning - can have damaging effects on stormwater quality and in turn affect aquatic life in our waterways.

The solution is in your hands - wrap it and bin it. If there is no bin handy, wrap the gum and hold onto it until you find a bin. Some chewing gum comes wrapped in paper which you can use to wrap your finished gum.

Dog ​​​poo

Leaving dog poo on streets, in parks and on beaches is smelly, unsightly and very unpleasant to step in! Dog poo is a serious litter issue with wide-ranging impacts on amenity, health and the environment.

Dog faeces contain harmful bacteria and nutrients that pose a risk to human health. Dog droppings are also a significant contributor to pollution of our creeks and bays as they are washed into the stormwater system after rain.

Special bags are often provided in parks and designated dog-exercising areas for dog owners to clean up their dog's waste.  Use these, and then dispose of these bags appropriately. In the absence of such facilities, take a plastic bag or other suitable container to clean up after your dog.

Fishing​​​ l​​itter

Much of the litter in our coastal waters comes from our cities, washed into drains that flow to the ocean. However, fishing litter left behind by people fishing on the shore or from boats where the items are washed, blown or thrown overboard also contributes.

Monofilament fishing line is the most common form of fishing litter. However plastic shopping and garbage bags, bait bags, fishing hooks, packing tape, plastic rope, plastic six-pack rings, rings from drink bottles and bait strips, bottles and cans are also commonly discarded items.​

So when you're fishing, play your part in reducing and preventing litter by: 

  • being aware that plastics, such as bait bags and plastic shopping bags, and food wrappers can easily blow away overboard so be prepared with a container or strong garbage bag to store these items.
  • if you are a smoker, carry and use a personal ashtray for your cigarette butts.
  • collecting all fishing litter including hooks, sinkers, fishing line, bait bags and general rubbish such as food scraps, food containers, cans, bottles and plastic for safe disposal at home. 
  • picking up any litter you see in the water or on land and encouraging other people to pick up their own litter.
  • report all sightings of animals, birds and fish that are entangled to Parks and Wildlife.​​​​
Dolphin snagged in fishing line

Dolphin snagged in fishing line
Photo: Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service


​​Do not release balloons (or their clips and strings) into the environment.  According to the Tasmanian Litter Act 2007, even the release of one small item into the environment (such as a balloon) is littering, and can attract a penalty. 

If they blow or wash into the ocean, balloons can have severe impacts on marine life.  A CSIRO and IMAS collaborative study found that balloons are 32 times more likely to kill seabirds than if they ingest hard plastic.  

If you are planning a party, event or commemoration, think of ways to celebrate that do not generate litter, such as flags, kites, bunting or bubbles.  Zoos Victoria have a campaign called “When balloons fly, seabirds die.”

More information: Releasing Balloons is Littering

Litter from recy​​cling and rubbish collections

​​Kerbside rubbish and recycling collections can result in rubbish accidentally being dropped in the street, and sometimes a wheelie bin is knocked over and if it is a windy night, rubbish is blown around. If this is the case, collect what has been dropped to prevent it entering the stormwater system. If there is a large amount dropped, as part of regular rubbish or recycling collection, contact your local council. 

​​​Other sources​ of​​​ litter, and ways to reduce litter

  • Cover your trailer load on the way to the tip.
  • Donate to charities only when the store is open: loads dumped on weekends outside full bins often end up as litter.
  • If you see street-side litter bins that are often full and overflowing, suggest to your council that more bins may be needed.
  • Where safe, pick up litter in the street or in parks or on beaches: you might inspire others to do the same.​​​​​​