Litter – The Good, The Bad & The Clean Up

The good news is, when it comes to litter, most people do the right thing, most people dispose of litter properly. Extensive research on littering behaviours undertaken by social researchers Community Change, finds that two-thirds of people put their waste in a bin.

According to Resource Recovery Gippsland’s Executive Officer, Matthew Peake, it’s important to acknowledge community, local government and industry efforts in dealing with waste responsibly but the bad news is that the litter and illegal dumping that does occur costs the region economically, socially and environmentally.

“In research we conducted in 2019, it was estimated that providing services, such as public bins and litter traps, to maintain clean towns and to clean up dumping and litter across Gippsland is a real cost to the community at nearly $2.8 million annually.

“If we add the cost of street sweeping, which includes sweeping up litter as well as leaves and other organic matter, the cost rises to nearly $4.6 million.”

Community consultation across the region, a key contributor to the research, identified that the top concerns for locals when it comes to litter and illegal dumping were the hazard it caused to marine life and the environment, its impact on community appearance, and the risk of flooding due to litter blocking drains.

Those surveyed also identified beaches, roadsides, rivers and creeks, and public events as sites where litter is most prevalent, with fast food packaging, plastic bags, drink containers and cigarette butts high on the list of offending items.

“Unfortunately, single-use masks would now be on the litter list and are an item of concern worldwide,” said Matthew Peake. “In fact, the United Nations has estimated that approximately 75 per cent of used masks, gloves and other pandemic-related material will end up in the environment or as waste in landfill.”

Although essential to public health and safety since the onset of COVID-19, most of these single-use items are made of plastic that can’t be recycled. As a growing source of pollution in the environment, they must be disposed of properly in a waste bin.

Dick Ellis, Chair of Resource Recovery Gippsland’s Board of Directors, added, “It’s timely that the focus of Clean Up Australia Day’s citizen science project on March 6 is mask-pollution.”

“The project’s banner of ‘Unmask Australia’s Litter Problem’ says it all, as data collated from the litter gathered by volunteers around Australia will shed light on the impact of this waste stream on the environment and economy.”

“The more that’s known about litter, the greater the opportunity for targeted education and prevention and the greater the prospect of the information contributing to design and production based on sustainable, circular economy principles.”

Along with participating in events such as Clean Up Australian Day, a great way to help minimise the impact of litter and illegal dumping is to report sightings directly to your local council or use a reporting app like Environmental pollution and litter thrown from vehicles can be reported to the Environment Protection Authority online at or by calling 1300 372 842.

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