Laws across Australia are strict when it comes to littering, with the charge being led in most jurisdictions by environmental authorities.
- Anything that can be considered litter can get you fined for littering
- Even biodegradable items removed from your ute can get you into trouble
- Fines can be substantial, especially if you drive a company vehicle
Vehicles are hot spots for littering. You’ve probably seen someone flick a lit cigarette out the window, and it’s most noticeable when you’re driving in the dark.
But even throwing things out of your car window that are biodegradable – like apple cores or banana peels – can still land you a fine. A police officer we spoke to suggested that drivers who are seen throwing any kind of rubbish from their cars will be ticketed by the police if they are caught in the act.
The best advice is to keep your rubbish in your car until you get to a place where you can put it in a bin. Because no one wants their piece of fruit to cost a few pineapples.
It is even possible, if it is your car but you are not driving it at the time, and someone reports the vehicle for littering, that you, the owner, still have to pay the fine unless you can prove it was someone else who dared to avoid the bin.
Here is a list of rules for littering across Australia:
Melbourne’s road rules on litter can be covered by Offense 2134, according to Road Fees and Penalties 2020-21, which states a fine of $207 can be imposed for the act of “Failure to remove items dropped from a vehicle on the road or placed on the road”.
However, the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in Victoria has its own laws, where fines for individuals can amount to “$370 for small items such as cigarette butts or food wrappers or $740 for lit cigarettes or other hazardous litter. ”.
If you throw anything from a work vehicle or while acting on behalf of the company, the fine is $1849 for a small item or $3698 for a lit cigarette or other hazardous waste.
Adelaide took a rather hard line on this too. The City of Adelaide residents hub states that “persons found to be littering or littering may: be subject to an immediate fine of between $210 and $1,000; brought to court and fined a maximum of $5,000 to $120,000”.
Further, the state’s Local Nuisance and Litter Control Act (2016) asserts “it is the responsibility of the vehicle owner for offenses committed in connection with, or from, the vehicle”, and it is “up to the owner.” to declare and prove that another person is responsible for the offence”.
Brisbane’s laws on littering from vehicles (including boats) follow the same logic as other states.
Individuals and companies can be fined $200 for “general littering”, such as “throwing cigarette butts from car windows into the gutter; or food wrappers, bus tickets or food items left on the ground; throwing away soft drink cans, takeout packaging or plastic bags from a car or boat; or items falling from the back of a ute or trailer due to an uncovered load”. This can reach a maximum of $3000 if contested in court.
In QLD, there are also larger fines for “hazardous littering”, which is defined as “any litter that may cause harm to people, wildlife and property”, such as “broken glass left in
a playground or a cigarette lit in the dry grass”. An individual could be fined $400, while a corporation could see four times that. Take it to court and the maximum penalty may be $4000.
New South Wales
In Sydney, the EPA includes littering from vehicles under scheduled legislation, and “the maximum penalty for a general littering offense is 20 penalty units ($2200)”.
However, it is more likely that there will be a penalty notice issued, with the NSW Service stating: “Fines of $250 for an individual and $500 for a company may be issued from a witness report”.
The state actively encourages residents to dispose of trash, and they can do so by following these instructions:
Get photos of the car, location and item of litter (if available) in addition to details about the litter, for example:
- Time you see it
- where are you going
- Where you are, in relation to the offender’s vehicle (for example, in your car behind the vehicle)
- Who is with you and if they also see the trash
- Weather conditions at that time
- How you record rubbish (for example, in a notebook or voice recording).
Australian Capital Territory
In Canberra there are two different interpretations of littering rules: for children, the fine is $75, but adults who commit the same act can be fined $186.
Hobart’s rules include an offense known as “depositing an item of litter in a public place”, which carries a fine of $181. If you see someone throwing rubbish from their vehicle, you can report it through Tasmania EPA.
Perth has several different litter penalties, with higher rates for companies (in brackets next to individual fines, below):
- Littering – cigarette butt (not a cigarette): $200 ($500)
- Littering – general: $200 ($500)
- Bill Posting: $200 ($500)
- Bill posting on vehicle: $200 ($500)
- Depositing domestic or commercial waste in a public container: $200 ($500)
- Carrying cargo not fully secured: $200 (N/A)
- Littering that poses a public risk – including broken glass, car parts, tires, syringes or lit cigarettes: $500 ($2000)
Darwin does not appear to have any road rules about littering from cars, but there is a Litter Act (1972) which states that “a person shall not leave, throw, store or leave litter in, to or from a public place or vacant Crown land elsewhere other than into an authorized container”. And if they do, they can face a maximum penalty (15 units) which can reach $2430.
Further, however, if the matter reaches the court and “in the opinion of the court” the litter in question “may cause injury to, or danger to the health of, a person using a public place or vacant Crown land or damage to property, the court may impose a maximum penalty of 25 penalty units for the offence”, which means a fine of $4050.
Not intended as legal advice. Check with the relevant road authorities in your state or territory.