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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).

Source Control

Source Control is delivered primarily via the Plastics Action Plan single use item phases outs; and working with local and regional stakeholders to identify problematic items in their local jurisdictions and working with local businesses and consumers to phase them out

Diversion to a circular economy

Diversion to a circular economy is delivered in large part via Return and Earn (Container Deposit Scheme Branch) and product stewardship and Extended User Responsibility (EPR) schemes namely the proposed cigarette butt EPR outlined in the Plastic Action Plan.

Education, Awareness and Engagement

Education, Awareness and Engagement is delivered through the Tosser! campaign. Education is a crucial part of behaviour change – it builds awareness of litter, helps the community understand the impacts of litter, and establishes a social norm to not litter . By working with partners  through local councils, communities and industry – s we can extend and amplify the campaign message

Better Infrastructure and Clean Up

Better infrastructure and clean up is primarily delivered through grants. Funding and support will be provided across three key streams for councils, regional waste groups, established community and catchment groups, government agencies and key stakeholders to deliver targeted litter prevention initiatives.

Effective regulation and enforcement of litter laws

Effective regulation and enforcement of litter laws through council support and training, coordination of campaigns and the Report to EPA littering from vehicle system.

Targeted Programs to stop litter dispersal

Targeted programs to stop litter dispersal is delivered through several targeted programs to deal with specific items, practices and pathways that lead to the dispersal of litter into the wider environment.

Monitoring and evaluation of action and research

Monitoring and evaluation of action and research through regular litter counts, and evaluation of programs, driving the evidence-base for programs, as outlined in the NSW EPA litter data Framework.

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

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