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How Does Littering Affect the Environment

Did you know rubbish as little as your cigarette butts can have a huge impact on the environment when not disposed of properly. That should not come as a surprise given that plastics that have broken down to as small as a micrometre can be found everywhere, from our soil to our foods, but have you ever wondered, how does litter affect the environment?

Litter, propelled by wind and water currents, can spread far and wide, making trash a common sight on streets, sidewalks, and beaches. Beyond the toxic chemicals and harmful effects on human health, littering behaviour leads to land and water pollution, impacting wildlife animals, marine species, and soil contamination. 

It’s crucial to remember that the way we handle discarded waste, such as cigarette butts and plastic materials, carries significant consequences – not just environmentally.

What is Litter?

In the simplest terms, litter is anything that’s out of place – a plastic bottle on the beach, cigarette butts on the footpath, or a takeaway container in the park. It’s what happens when waste isn’t where it should be, in garbage bins or recycling facilities. 

From those tiny scraps of paper to organic waste like chucking an apple core in a garden bed, litter is not just unsightly; it’s a threat to our natural habitats, marine life, and our own health.

The Most Commonly Littered Items Include:

  • Advertising materials and leaflets
  • Cigarette butts
  • Glass pieces and bottles
  • Plastic wrappers
  • Plastic bottles and bottle caps
  • Plastic bags
  • Plastic lids
  • Straws
  • Styrofoam and plastic takeout containers

Why do people litter?

The primary causes of littering often boil down to a disregard for the environment. Many people litter out of convenience, carelessly discarding trash on streets, from moving vehicles, or wherever it seems easiest.

This behaviour not only involves everyday items like plastic bottles and cigarette butts but also toxic substances that can severely harm marine life, disrupt the food chain, and degrade land and water quality.

How Litter Affects the Environment

So, how does littering affect the environment? Here are five negative impacts of littering and why raising awareness is so important.

Unsightly Surroundings

Imagine your favourite place crowded with litter. Isn’t that an unsightly thought? Litter can travel long distances and end up along beaches and greatly affect the aesthetics of an area. Litter in public places, on the streets, and in tourist spots can devastatingly downgrade the appeal of such areas.

What’s worse is, when there are already littered areas, it can often encourage people to think it’s okay to add more litter themselves, making the situation worse.


Litter can severely degrade the quality of land, water, and air. They can end up in waterways such as the rivers, lakes, and oceans and pollute these bodies of water. As an effect of pollution, aquatic life would be severely devastated and can result in fish kill and algal blooms. Litter can also cause water-borne diseases that could affect the health of plants and animals, including humans. 

Sharp objects such as metal scraps and broken glass can also be injurious to marine wildlife, causing amputation of body parts as well as infections.

Zoonotic Diseases

Zoonoses are diseases caused by animals. Litter is a potential breeding ground of germs and bacteria. So, when rodents and pests that are attracted to rubbish in search of food, find their way into piles of litter, these creatures may harbour disease-causing bacteria and infect people.

Habitat Destruction

Litter can damage the habitats of marine and land animals such as the coral reefs. Pieces of junk may accumulate underwater and alter the natural habitat structure and safe living conditions of marine animals. Moreover, plastic debris can bring light and oxygen levels to toxic and unsustainable levels for these aquatic creatures.

Ingestion by Animals

When people toss food scraps outside, animal encroachment of urban areas becomes a very real problem. Plastic litter is dangerous to animals because they can be mistaken as food by these critters. Furthermore, harmful chemicals can adhere to plastics and make them more toxic and hazardous when ingested by marine animals and birds. 

As a result, their stomach capacity gets reduced since plastic cannot be digested.  In the long run, this would affect their eating habits, eventually causing sickness and even death.

Consequences of Littering in Sydney and New South Wales

A lot of people rarely think about their individual littering habits as detrimental to the environment, often wondering “why should we not litter?” or “what difference can one person make?” 

While it is true that there is still a demand for councils to better prevent littering, by ensuring adequate and affordable access to public trash receptacles and waste management facilities, there are serious consequences if caught littering in NSW.

Fines and Penalties for Littering in Sydney and Surrounds

Similar to illegal dumping, there are financial consequences put in place by local governments and local authorities for Environmental Protection in NSW, in an effort to deter habitual littering behaviours.

Penalties for someone caught littering from a vehicle start from $250 for an individual and $500 for a corporation, similar fines can be issued for any litter waste that has been improperly disposed of in urban areas and local communities.

This could be something as seemingly innocent as leaving behind food wrappers, food waste and other food packaging in a public space, so remember to either find a rubbish bin or carry your waste with you till you find one.


Keeping your trash and throwing them according to their garbage classification can go a long way. Practising proper rubbish disposal is crucial so that unwanted junk doesn’t end up in the ocean and anywhere else, causing adverse impacts on the environment.

Paul’s Rubbish Removal is your trusted company when it comes to removing rubbish efficiently and environmentally-friendly. Our team of dedicated rubbish removalists care for mother earth as much as you do so you have nothing to worry about. 

Let us handle all of your rubbish removal needs from the collection, segregation, all the way to rubbish treatment and disposal. 

Want us to deal with your rubbish? Give us a call now at 0407 125 125 or email us at info@paulsrubbish.com.au. We also provide same-day rubbish removal.

Sarah Ann

Sarah Ann

Sarah Ann is a Digital Content Writer for Paul's Rubbish Removal. Sarah is a huge advocate for recycling, environmental sustainability, health and well-being and has a genuine love for all sea animals. Keep up with Sarah by following Paul's Rubbish Removal blog!

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