Litter laws

 
Overview

The new law in New South Wales covering littering and advertising material both extends the range of offences and the range of penalties that can be issued by officers from councils and other enforcement agencies.

This is a summary of the new littering laws and other important changes made by the Protection of the Environment Operations Amendment (Littering) Act 2000 .

Commencement

The amendments commence in two stages:

  • 1 July 2000 for amendments relating to littering offences
  • 1 April 2001 for amendments relating to offences about advertising material.

    This will make it illegal for advertising material to be put in places such as under car windscreen wipers, on property gates or fences, a public place, open private area (ie private land outside of a private building) and other inappropriate areas where it has the potential to become litter.

    Advertising material is defined as “…any paper product (including a leaflet, brochure or magazine) or other material thing that contains advertising or promotional matter”.

What is ‘litter’ according to the law?

The definition of ‘litter’ in section 144A of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) is as follows:

‘Litter includes:

(a) any solid or liquid domestic or commercial refuse, debris or rubbish and, without limiting the generality of the above, includes any glass, metal, cigarette butts, paper, fabric, wood, food, abandoned vehicles, abandoned vehicle parts, construction or demolition material, garden remnants and clippings, soil sand or rocks, and

(b) any other material, substance or thing deposited in a place if its size, shape, nature or volume makes the place where it is deposited disorderly or detrimentally affects the proper use of that place,

deposited, in or on a place, whether or not it has any value when or after being deposited in or on the place.’

Littering offences

The littering offences are:

  • littering (including littering from vehicles): depositing litter on land or waters in a public place or an open private place
  • aggravated littering: littering which is reasonably likely to cause or contribute to appreciable danger or harm to any persons, animals, premises or property
  • depositing, or causing someone to deposit, advertising material in a public place or open private place other than in a mail box or under a door
  • depositing, or causing someone to deposit, advertising material on any vehicle.

What is ‘depositing litter’ according to the law?

The definition of ‘depositing litter’ in section 144A of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) is:

‘Depositing litter in or on a place includes:

(a) dropping or throwing litter in, on, into or onto the place, or

(b) leaving litter in or on the place, or

(c) putting litter in such a location that it falls, descends, blows, is washed, percolates or otherwise escapes or is likely to fall, descend, blow, be washed, percolate or otherwise escape into or onto the place, or

(d) causing, permitting or allowing litter to fall, descend, blow, be washed, percolate or otherwise escape into or onto the place.’

Examples of depositing litter

  • throwing confectionary wrappers from a vehicle
  • leaving a food container under a park bench
  • stubbing a cigarette onto a footpath
  • allowing soil, sand or garden waste to blow from a moving vehicle

Public place

The definition of ‘public place’ in the dictionary of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 is:

‘(a) public place within the meaning of the Local Government Act 1993, and

(b) a place that is open to the public, or is used by the public, whether or not on payment of money or other consideration, whether or not the place is ordinarily so open or used, and whether or not the public to whom the place is so open, or by whom the place is so used, consists only of a limited class of persons

(c) a State forest or flora reserve within the meaning of the Forestry Act 1916, and

(d) a national park, state recreation area, historic site, nature reserve, state game reserve or Aboriginal area within the meaning of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974.’

Examples of public places

  • railway stations, ferry wharves and bus stops
  • parks and reserves
  • roads, laneways, footpaths and thoroughfares used by the public
  • cricket grounds, football stadiums and sports venues
  • carparks
  • forecourts of shopping centres and petrol stations.

Open private place

The definition of ‘open private place’ in section 144A of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 is:

‘Open private place means:

(a) a private place that is situated in or on land and that is not within a building on the land, or

(b) a private place that is situated in or on waters.’

Examples of open private places

  • gardens or yards around private residences or industrial premises
  • farm or grazing land
  • privately owned vacant land
  • small watercourses running through private land.
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