Litter survey shows continuing downward trend of litter levels in Western Australia

Media release
Results of the latest National Litter Index (NLI) for Western Australia 2019-20 suggests the 2018 statewide ban on lightweight plastic bags is having a positive impact.
  • Biannual litter count shows a 16 per cent reduction in number of plastic bags
  • Decreases seen at major roads/highways, retail precincts and recreational parks
  • Increases seen at beaches, industrial areas, residential streets and shopping centres

According to the report, based on Keep Australia Beautiful (KAB) litter counts conducted biannually across the State since 2005, a total of 49 lightweight plastic bags were found, compared to 58 in the 2018-19 report and 93 in the 2017-18 report (conducted prior to the ban on lightweight plastic bags).

The result of the NLI also suggest WA’s container deposit scheme, launching on 1 October, is likely to have similarly successful results. While the number of beverage containers counted in the survey was down by 15.2 per cent, those beverage containers eligible under the container deposit scheme still accounted for 40.9 per cent of the volume of litter and 12 per cent of the number of items.

Overall, the NLI shows the number of items of litter per 1,000 square metres (m2 ) decreased by 1.4 per cent, with the volume of litter per 1,000m2 decreasing by 9.4 per cent. The largest reductions were attributed to lower levels of plastic industrial containers, soft drink cans and plastic water and soft drink bottles under one litre. The fall in beverage containers was the main contributor to the decrease in litter counted.

The NLI surveys 151 1000m2 sites across WA, with an area surveyed of 235,966m2 . While city and suburban areas are the primary focus of the survey, a number of regional/rural sites are also surveyed.

In 2019-20 lower levels of litter were counted at recreational parks (-25.5 per cent), car parks (-12.2 per cent) and retail precincts (-11.5 per cent). Higher levels of litter were recorded at beaches (+44.6 per cent), industrial precincts (+13.1 per cent) and residential streets (+9.7 per cent).

Industrial precincts continue to record the highest loads on an item counted basis whereas major roads/highways continue to have the highest estimated loads on a volumetric basis. The most commonly littered items per 1,000 m2 included cigarette butts (2,781), beverage containers (1,038), and takeaway food and beverage containers (1,177).

Comments attributed to KABC Chairman Michael Aspinall

“The results of the survey show we have good reason to be positive about people’s littering behaviours in WA with a continuing downward trend in litter levels seen through successive NLI reports.

“In particular, it’s encouraging to see the decreasing number of littered plastic bags being found and I’m also optimistic of the likely anticipated effect of the container deposit scheme.

“Overall, WA’s litter levels are steadily declining, indicating the changing behaviours and growing understanding in the community of litter and waste issues as well as the impact of interventions and campaigns led by the government and the Keep Australia Beautiful Council (KABC).

“I’m confident the new Litter Prevention Strategy, with its target of a 30 per cent reduction in litter levels within five years, the Containers for Change program as well as the new Be a Great Sort campaign, will maintain and indeed accelerate this downward trend.”


To see the full report visit the KAB website.


% change from


Items contributing to change
Beaches +44.6 Increases in other paper litter (+87.5%), other plastic litter (+51.9%) and cigarette associated litter (+28.4%). 
Industrial +13.1 Increases in cigarette associated litter (+21.7%) and general other litter (+27.7%) and other plastic (+21.6%).
Decreases in beverage containers (-23.3%) and takeaway packaging (-13.3%). 
Residential Streets +9.7 Increases in beverage containers (+93.9%), other plastic (+31.6%) and other paper (+18.6%).
Decreases in cigarette related litter (-9.4%) and takeaway packaging (-3.2%). 
Shopping Centres +1.1 Decrease in cigarette litter (-7,1%), other glass (-87.5%) and other paper (-18.5%). 
Major Roads/Highways -2.8 Decreases in beverage containers (-17.5%), plastic bags (-16.7%) and general other litter (-9.4%).
Increases in cigarette litter (+14.5%), other glass (+43.1%) and takeaway packaging (+7.1%).
Retail Precincts -11.5 Decrease in the cigarette litter (-11.0%), other paper (-29.3%) and takeaway packaging (-15.8%).
Car parks -12.2 Decreases in cigarette litter (-14.4%), beverage containers (-38.2%), other paper (-18.1%) and general other litter (-10.7%).
Recreational Parks -25.5 Decreases in takeaway packaging (-56.0%) and other paper (-34.1%), cigarette litter (-22.9%) and beverage containers (-14.3%). 


Page reviewed 19 October 2020