Keeping Australia clean and protecting the environment is the duty of every citizen. Or should be. Under Australian law, those who do not understand the need to keep their cities clean will have to pay for it. Littering is an offence punishable with heavy fines and serious polluters risk of having such offences on their criminal records. So how is Australia tackling its littering problem? Let’s have a look at the laws concerning littering in Australia.
What constitutes littering?
Littering laws have been in place for decades now and still there are many people who do not understand what sort of acts constitute littering. Young smokers often have no qualms when throwing the butt of their cigarette on the ground, like it’s the most natural thing to do. Likewise, some people toss garbage out of their car window like the road was their personal trash can. It’s only an apple core, surely that’s not littering, they’ll say. Actually, it is.
Under the 1979 Litter Act throwing organic matter such as an apple core out of a car window is just as bad as throwing an empty soda can or a cigarette butt.
What are the fines for littering?
Since environmental pollution is a huge problem at the moment, the Australian government is very strict about littering. The fines for such acts are quite high to deter people from mindlessly polluting the streets, public roads, and the environment in general.
Throwing just one cigarette butt on the ground can cost you $200. The same fine applies to discarding wrappers, plastic bottles and other types of refuse, which should be disposed of in an eco-friendly manner.
The same penalties apply to bill posting, like leaving a flyer on a car windshield. Most of these flyers, well, fly away and it will be years before they decompose.
The anti-littering laws make throwing domestic waste in a public receptacle an offence as well.
There’s another category of littering, that refers to materials transported by car that may fall off on a public road. Such an offence is punishable with a $200 or $500 fine if we’re talking about broken glass, wood or metal pieces that can create a public risk.
All these fines are applicable to private citizens, but when the litterer can be traced back to a corporate entity, the fines start from $500.
In certain cases, where serious environmental pollution occurs, the fines can go up to several thousands dollars.
Littering offences go on your criminal record
Now, if you are caught throwing a cigarette butt on the street and pay your fine immediately, obviously this won’t go on your criminal record.
However, repeated offences, especially those committed by a company that habitually disposes of waste products on public domain will end up on the offender’s criminal record.
If the matter comes before a court of law and the defendant is found guilty, a littering offence will go down on their national criminal record check even if there was no prison sentence imposed and the matter was resolved with a fine.
The next time that person will need to get a background check for any reason, that litter offence will appear on their criminal record and will look very bad. Is dumping a load of garbage on public land worth that risk?