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What is litter?

Litter is the most visible pollutant in the environment. It accumulates on our streets, blocks gutters and drains and gets transported through the stormwater system, ultimately ending up on our beaches and waterways. The Environment Protection Act 1970 defines litter to be any solid or liquid domestic or commercial waste, refuse, debris or rubbish. This includes waste glass, metal, plastic, paper, fabric, wood, food, soil, sand, concrete or rocks, abandoned vehicles, abandoned vehicle parts and garden remnants and clippings.

What are the impacts of litter?

  • Litter and waste often ends up in our waterways reducing water quality and potentially harming our precious marine life. In fact, 95% of the litter found on our beaches comes from suburban streets through the stormwater system.
  • The Victorian Government spends approximately $80 million each year cleaning up litter, with 7,850 tonnes of litter and debris removed just from waterways around Melbourne in 2012-13.
  • Thousands of marine birds, mammals, reptiles and fish are killed or injured each year due to entanglements in poorly discarded fishing line and other plastic waste.
  • Cigarette butts are the number one item picked up during litter clean-ups followed by drink containers and paper. Cigarette butts can take up to 12 months to break down in freshwater and up to five years to break down in seawater.

Rubbish washed up from the river   

Image source: Parks Victoria

How is litter being managed?

Actions to improve our environment

The dumping of litter in our streets and in our catchments adversely impacts on our waterways, marine areas and the wildlife that live within them. The Victorian Government has been actively working to strengthen litter reduction in Victoria to protect unique natural assets such as the Yarra River and Port Phillip Bay.

Further information about litter programs can be found at: the Department of  Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), EPA Victoria, Parks VictoriaVictorian Litter Action Alliance (VLAA), Sustainability Victoria, and Metropolitan Waste Management Group (MWMG) who are all committed to preventing  litter and keeping Victoria’s parks and waters clean.


Young Karen men helping out Parks Victoria in a clean up day

Clean up day. Image source: Parks Victoria


The Bin Not Bay Program

The Bin Not Bay© Marine Environment Litter Program is an Australian Marine Mammal Conservation Foundation initiative designed to raise community and industry awareness and initiate action to protect the marine mammal environment in Port Phillip Bay.

Port Phillip Bay is one of several places in southern Australian waters where the recently discovered dolphin species, the Burrunan dolphin, has established a resident population. The Burrunan is listed as "Endangered" under Victoria’s Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act, with less than 150 dolphins in the Port Phillip Bay population.

Litter and waste is a significant threat to marine mammals in Port Phillip Bay. Each year across the globe, thousands of animals become entangled and ingest plastic waste causing numerous deaths. New research estimates as much as 12.7 million metric tonnes of plastic is entering our oceans annually; 88% of the earths ocean is now polluted with plastics; half of all plastics are single use and with new emerging threats such as micro-plastics (micro-beads & raw plastic resin pellets

The Bin Not Bay initiative addresses these main areas of concern by educating the community on the link between incorrect disposal of litter and impact on the marine environment; provides easy access to litter bins on the beaches, especially during high usage times across summer; and targets the wider community of beach users, not just Bayside residents.

For more information go to

Bin Not Bay logo of a dolphin and seal silhouette

Informing communities

We all play a part in protecting our environment. This summer keep an eye out for the Victorian Government’s Summer Litter Campaign A Cleaner Victoria Is In Your Hands which aims to educate and inform you about the impact of litter on water and land and encourage you to report litter thrown from vehicles.


Environmental citizenship

Through strong environmental partnerships the Victorian government aims to encourage a new sense of environmental citizenship, where individuals, communities, businesses and other organisations take a more active and shared responsibility in efforts to support our environment.


What you can do to help protect our waterways

The best prevention of litter pollution is your contribution to make a difference through the following actions:

  • If you are out and not near a rubbish bin, take your litter home. Carry a bag with you and treat public environments like you would your own home.
  • Dispose extinguished cigarettes appropriately or place in a personal ash tray to take home.
  • Do not sweep, hose or place litter, organics or chemicals near stormwater drainage.
  • Get involved or start a workplace clean-up program.
  • Register to become a litter reporter. Report people who throw litter from a Victorian-registered motor vehicle to EPA. You can report via EPA’s website, by downloading  a report litter app or via EPA’s 24 hour Pollution Hotline (1300 EPA VIC)

There are many organisations and groups involved in maintaining the water quality of the Yarra and the Bay. If are interested in knowing more about how you can get involved, go to the How you can help page on this website.

Program Partners