Earlier in the month, we polled our social media followers with the question “What are you wasting when no one is watching?” We were looking for insights into littering behaviour to understand what we can do to make it better.
While our poll was not designed to be comprehensive, its findings were largely consistent with previous studies done. Here’s what we found.
- Seven out of ten people try to do the right thing when it comes to disposing litter.
- Many people litter out of convenience – the most common reason for littering in public places is “not enough bins”.
- Conversely, our audience thought that the best way to discourage littering was to “provide more bins”.
- Shopping bags are still a concern – Less than half of respondents use reusable bags while nearly 25% still use plastic bags.
- Electronic waste is a growing problem with almost 60% of respondents storing between one to five unused electronic items at home.
How you can make a difference
Examine your own waste habits
There are many small actions we can take to reduce litter in our everyday lives. Some are as simple as switching to reusable coffee cups. Others may be as challenging as adopting a zero waste lifestyle like Cleanaway’s Waste Education Officer, Elli Webb.
What would it mean to live a lifestyle that produced no waste at all?
- Zero waste to landfill – Aim for NO rubbish in the general waste bin. Reduce, reuse and recycle as much as you can.
- No new purchases – Before buying new clothes, techs or furniture, consider if it’s really necessary. Reuse wherever possible.
- Food must be local – Get only foods that do not need to travel great distances to reach you (<250km)
- Reduced carbon emissions – Use only the energy that nature provides.
Reduce your plastic use
The easiest step you can take to Clean Up every day is to eliminate single-use plastic. Plastic like plastic bags, straws and water bottles are some of the most common litter collected in our environment. They can cause widespread harm to the environment, from ocean life accidentally eating plastics, to suffocating rivers and lakes.
Get your recycling right
Do you put your recycling in bags before you put it in the recycling bin? Do you recycle plastic bottles with liquid still inside? Do you put clothes or textiles in the recycling bin? All of these behaviours are cardinal sins of recycling and could put your sustainability efforts to waste.
These behaviours and items “contaminate” a recycling bin and reduce the value and resale potential of your recycling. Too much contamination risks sending a truck full of recyclables to landfill.
Businesses can sort more rubbish at the source
Sorting rubbish at the source is the best way to improve the quality of recyclables, reduce contamination, and to maximise the value derived from recyclable material.
For many businesses, sorting at the source not only improves their sustainability rating by diverting waste from the landfill, but can also reduce general waste costs by avoiding landfill levies. A waste management plan is a good way to find out what your business could be sorting and recovering.
Support anti-litter initiatives
Clean Up Australia isn’t limited to a single day. Take the opportunity to get together as a community, school or workplace to clean up your local area. Flooding and storm season tends to reveal a lot of legacy litter in water ways and park areas, which means you can stop it before it reaches our oceans or is eaten by other wildlife.
The Great Northern Clean Up happens between September and October annually. Taking part in the Great Northern Clean Up isn’t just about clearing out your regular litter – it’s also about preventing rubbish from polluting our oceans.
Cigarette butts were the number one item found as litter. Tiny but poisonous, cigarette butts tossed outside of a bin can leech dangerous chemicals into the soil and cause fires if discarded wrongly. Initiatives like Butt Free Australia tackle cigarette butt littering head on with behavioural change programs that educate, inform and encourage smokers to bin their litter responsibly.
As part of Cleanaway’s commitment to making sustainability a part of everyone’s lives, we regularly post tips, tricks and resources about effective waste management for individuals, businesses and communities. You can help spread the word by sharing content such as our Clean Up Australia Day litter awareness videos: