Litter information

Information on different types of litter and how they impact the community and environment.
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Read about the different types of litter, their impacts and solutions below.

Cigarette butts

The facts

  • Cigarette butts are the most littered item in Australia.
  • Approximately seven billion of the 24 billion filtered cigarettes sold every year in Australia are littered.
  • Six out of 10 Australian smokers litter their butts outdoors.
  • Cigarette butts make up about 30 percent of the number of items littered in Western Australia.
  • The Western Australian Department of Fire and Emergency Services attend approximately 700 landscape fires each year caused by discarded lit cigarette butts.

Why should I care?

  • Butts littered on streets get washed into stormwater drains and into waterways where they leach toxic chemicals such as cadmium, lead and zinc.
  • Butts are commonly mistaken for food by marine life and have been found in the stomachs of fish, birds, sea turtles and other marine creatures.
  • Cigarette butts are made from non-biodegradable plastic and can take up to 12-15 years to break down.

Littering is illegal

Flicking cigarettes butts onto  areas such as footpaths, roads, gutters, bus shelters and garden beds is illegal and can all incur a fine.

Under the Litter Act 1979 you can be fined $200 for the incorrect disposal of your butt. If the butt is lit when it is disposed of, it can lead to a $500 fine as that is regarded as ‘Littering creating a public risk’ as the butt can burn someone or start a fire.

What you can do to help reduce cigarette butt litter

  • If you are a smoker, dispose of your cigarettes butts responsibly by always putting them in a bin.
  • Carry a pocket ashtray with you to use when there are no bins around. 
  • If you are a non smoker, or a smoker who does the right thing, you can also help make a difference by registering to become a litter reporter.

Unwanted community newspapers

Newspapers are not exempt from anti-littering legislation in Western Australia and placing them on private land or the Council verge can be considered an offence against the Litter Act 1979. The Keep Australia Beautiful Council (KABC) which administers the Act, has previously taken the view that a community newspaper is a service that most people are happy to receive and has previously not taken any action against publishers or distributors.

The Community Newspaper Group has received KABC approval to deliver some community newspapers via verge drop off to accommodate areas where there is a lack of delivering staff. In order for this to occur the Local Council must provide approval. In addition, the Community Newspaper Group has established a new hotline to allow easy cancellation of newspaper delivery to your private address if desired.

If you are receiving community newspapers and you do not wish to receive them you can call this ‘hotline’ on 1800 811 855 or by emailing

If you are unhappy with your newspaper being delivered to your verge in your neighborhood you should contact your Local Council and ask them to review their approval for this delivery method in your area.

Unwanted advertising material

If you don’t want to receive advertising material, the first step you need to take is to attach a sign to your letter box such as ‘no advertising material’, ‘no junk mail’, ‘circulars only’.

Order your 'no junk mail' sticker now.

If advertising material is placed in your letterbox when you have one of these signs, you can contact the Distribution Standards Board via their website or call 1 800 676 136 (also see fact sheet). 

Balloon releases and littering

What’s the issue?

Balloons that are released into the air eventually come back down to earth and end up as litter, with the potential to harm the environment and animal life, in particular birds and marine animals.

Keep Australia Beautiful WA does not endorse the releasing of balloons and encourages anyone considering doing so to seek an alternative method of celebration or commemoration.

What harm do they do?

Balloons have similar effects to plastic  bags and many dead animals have been found with the remnants of balloons inside them.

Balloons and balloon fragments are often mistaken for food and swallowed, which can cause injury and death. The string attached to the balloon, can also be dangerous as they can strangle or entrap animals. Birds have been found tangled in the strings of balloons making them unable to fly or search for food. 

Watch this video about the impacts balloons and other plastics are having on sea birds.

What about bio-degradable balloons?

Claims that balloons are bio-degradable are misleading. While natural latex may be biodegradable, the addition of chemicals and dyes in balloon manufacture can make balloons persist for many months in the environment. Balloons that are released into the environment, even for a short time can cause harm. Similarly, degraded remnants of balloon can be harmful to animals that ingest them. (Ref:

What’s the law on releasing balloons?

Under the Litter Act 1979 items become litter when they are deposited on land or waters, so while the action of releasing the balloons is not an offence, littering does occur when they land.

This is however, a very difficult situation to prove, as an authorised officer would need to witness the release of the balloon, then follow the balloon and see it fall to land to be able to issue an infringement. There is currently no other legislation in Western Australia addressing the mass release of balloons.

Other states of Australia have laws regarding the release of balloons. For example:

  • In New South Wales, you cannot release more than twenty balloons at any one time.
  • The Sunshine Coast in Queensland banned the intentional release of helium balloons into the atmosphere in 2011.
  • In Tasmania, the idea of banning mass balloon releases has been considered, but no formal law against the mass release of mass balloons has been enacted yet.

Keep Australia Beautiful WA is well aware of the environmental damage helium balloons can cause and discourages the practice. Many large organisations that previously released balloons now choose other methods for celebration.

Local government bans

In Western Australia, the release of gas-filled balloons is prohibited within the City of Fremantle and City of Cottesloe.

Environmentally friendly alternatives

Here are just a few ideas for alternatives to balloons to celebrate, promote and commemorate.

Plant or gift in remembrance: By giving seeds, seedlings or planting a native tree, or garden, you can provide shelter, food and clean air to wildlife in the area, while also providing a more permanent place of remembrance.

Flags, banners, streamers and dancing inflatables: These are an option for companies who are looking for some promotional, reusable signage. They save money and can be reused.

Bunting: Different types of bunting can be very eye-catching and a great way to rope off or highlight an area.

Lighting candles and luminaries: Candles made from environmentally friendly materials are readily available and provide an easy option to celebrate or commemorate. Luminaries can be placed along a footpath and can have messages attached to them, or designed to allow people to leave their message.

A battery operated bubble blowing machine: Bubbles are made from harmless detergents and water and disappear on impact, leaving nothing behind. Machines are available cheaply from online stores.

If you have some other alternatives to share, please email

For more information on alternative ways to celebrate and the dangers of balloon release go to Balloons Blow.

Download our fact sheet on releasing balloons.

Litter laws

Littering in Western Australia is an offence under the Litter Act 1979Fines for littering are defined in the Litter Regulations 1981.

For more information, including fines for littering, go to our Litter laws webpage.