Australian Police

Australian Police

The Thin Blue Line – Australian Police

Littering from vehicles


Littering from vehicles

Roadside litter is one of the most unnecessary and preventable environmental problems. In the past, enforcement action was impractical because evidence of who ejected the litter from a vehicle had to be gathered.

The Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 has made it easier take action regarding littering from vehicles. A vehicle owner is deemed liable for littering unless they provide a statutory declaration stating the details of the person in charge of the vehicle at the time (sections 145-146).

Local councils and certain other public authorities have the power to issue penalty notices for littering, as well as the EPA. The EPA issued 221 penalty notices to vehicle owners in respect of littering from vehicles in the period December 1999 to mid-March 2000. The fine is $200 (individuals) or $400 (corporations), irrespective of the type of litter deposited.

Safety first
Take care when gathering the details of a vehicle. If possible, dictate the information for a passenger to write down. Some reporting officers carry dictaphones to record their observations, to minimise distraction from driving when alone in a vehicle.

What to look for and record about littering from vehicles

As much information as possible should be gathered about littering from vehicles:

  • registration number
  • state or territory where vehicle is registered
  • type of vehicle (for example, car, truck, motor cycle)
  • description of the vehicle (for example, colour, model or any other distinguishing features)
  • whether the vehicle was stationary or moving
  • if moving, direction the vehicle is heading
  • approximate time and place of the offence
  • part of the vehicle the litter was ejected from
  • how the litter was ejected (for example, thrown, dropped, placed on the ground)
  • type of litter (for example, cigarette butt, bottle, plastic bottle).

You must actually observe the Act of littering or have gathered other evidence to prove the offence. Only issue a penalty notice if it is beyond reasonable doubt that the litter came from the particular vehicle. Seeing litter next to a vehicle and assuming that it came from that vehicle is not good enough. It can be difficult to be absolutely sure where the litter actually came from when there is a line of traffic or lots of vehicles around. Remember that you may have to give evidence in court and be cross-examined if the vehicle owner elects to have the matter heard in court.

Accessing the details of a vehicle owner from the RTA database
To find out the owner’s details so that a penalty notice can be issued by mail, councils and other enforcement agencies may need to access the driver and vehicle records database of the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA).

The RTA offers on-line access to its driver and vehicle records database to various regulatory agencies, including councils. The RTA also offers off-line (fax back) access to 16 councils who have requested this service. In all but abandoned vehicle inquiries, the RTA charges $14 per fax-back request.

Given the need for strict privacy and security of information, there are safeguards. Councils seeking access, both on-line and off-line, must make a written application and enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the RTA, prior to accessing any information.

Contact for accessing vehicle owner details

RTA Unit Manager
Customer Service
Driver and Vehicle Records
Phone 02 9218 6175.

Contact for other enquires regarding littering from vehicles:

Manager Motor Vehicle Enforcement Unit
Environment Protection Authority
Phone 02 9995 5055

Littering from vehicle report sheet
EPA staff complete a report sheet when they see littering from a vehicle. They submit the completed sheet to the EPA authorised officers responsible for issuing penalty notices.

Local councils and other agencies able to issue penalty notices for littering may wish to adapt the report sheet (see link below) so that it can be used by their staff. For example some councils have suggested making the notice in the form of a statutory declaration, or containing the jurat under section 48C of the Justices Act (‘This statement made by me accurately sets out the evidence which I would be prepared, if necessary, to give in Court as a witness. The statement is true to the best of my knowledge and belief and I make it knowing that, if it is tendered in evidence, I shall be liable to prosecution if I have wilfully stated in it anything which I know to be false or do not believe to be true.’)

Sample ‘Littering From Motor Vehicle Observation Report Sheet (PDF format; 24 Kb)

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