Skip to main content

A NSW Government website

The Litter Journey: a closer look

How does the NSW Litter Prevention Strategy work along the litter journey?

The Litter Journey is a way of thinking about litter in terms of the life cycle of a piece of litter, from its inception as something produced by a manufacturing process.

This could be a packet of chips that gets distributed through supply chains to points of sale, where a critical stage in the journey is reached. A customer buys the chips and eats them, and the plastic packet is all that’s left. Will it be thrown in a bin? Or will it be dropped on the ground, adding to a litter hotspot? Now it is part of the environment.

Eventually, rainwater, wind, gravity or mechanical processes, such as a lawnmower or truck tyres, may help to break the litter up and carry it into the wider environment – drains, waterways, estuaries or the ocean. The theme is one of increasing break-up and dispersal: from the point of manufacture and, via the consumer, into the wider environment, where the chance to control what happens to it rapidly diminishes to zero (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Litter dispersing along the litter journey
Figure 1

We can also consider fellow travellers' along the way

We can consider the fellow travellers along the way (Figure 2). At the start of the Litter Journey, business sectors have been critical in decisions to design, make, market, distribute and sell products. 

Then consumers have been critical in the choices they make and the habits and expectations that form around their disposal of rubbish. Once litter is in a hotspot, place managers can present those locations in a way that ensures litter is minimised and the expectation of responsible rubbish disposal is clear. 

When litter escapes into the wider environment, community partners – including thousands of volunteers cleaning riverbanks, beaches and other favourite places – will be bagging up the rubbish and asking: “How can we make this stop?”

Figure 2: Key stakeholders on the litter journey
Figure 2

Having mapped the Litter Journey, we can consider where we have travelled in more detail. We can lay out the 5 strategies of the journey on the map and bring the story together in a new way (Figure 3).

Rewarding Responsible Behaviour

Rewarding Responsible Behaviour is delivered by business partners who provide an incentive at the point of sale to influence people to recycle beverage containers into the circular economy. More than 5 billion beverage containers have been recycled since the scheme began in December 2017.

Education and Awareness

Education and Awareness kicks in at the point of sale and aims to influence decisions and action around disposal – put it in the bin, take it home or put it into a recycling system.

Regulation and Enforcement

If the disposal action is littering, then Regulation and Enforcement puts a sting in the tail of the behaviour – sending a signal that this is unacceptable and comes at a cost to the community. 

Infrastructure and Cleaning

Infrastructure and Cleaning will target hotspots, turning them into an opportunity for behaviour change by stopping the rubbish before it becomes a wider problem in the environment.

Evaluation and Monitoring

Finally, Evaluation and Monitoring tracks the litter through the journey. 

Figure 3: The NSW Litter Prevention Strategy mapped on the litter journey
Figure 3

Top of page Back to top