Sydney's dirty secret - the item responsible for almost 50 per cent of litter

Clean Up Australia Day volunteers battle the bottle scourge in Sydney's waterways in March this year. Photo: Peter Rae
Clean Up Australia Day volunteers battle the bottle scourge in Sydney's waterways in March this year. Photo: Peter Rae
Cigarette butts remain the most littered item in NSW.

Cigarette butts remain the most littered item in NSW.

GARBAGE 000221 PIC MICHELE MOSSOP GENERIC GARBAGE WASTE POLLUTION TRASH ENVIRONMENT RECYCLING TINS PLASTIC GLASS BINS SOFT DRINKS SPRITE 7UP FOR REVIEW FRI 25TH FEB 2000

GARBAGE 000221 PIC MICHELE MOSSOP GENERIC GARBAGE WASTE POLLUTION TRASH ENVIRONMENT RECYCLING TINS PLASTIC GLASS BINS SOFT DRINKS SPRITE 7UP FOR REVIEW FRI 25TH FEB 2000

Litter volume in NSW has dropped by 12 per cent in the past year, the latest national litter index has found.

The Keep Australia Beautiful National Litter Index for NSW found drink containers made up 49 per cent, take away containers 24 per cent and print and advertising material eight per cent of total litter volume in NSW.

NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman​ will announce the index results on Wednesday, highlighting the drop for being "almost halfway" to meeting the Premier's Priority of reducing litter volume by 40 per cent by 2020.

"This year's results show the message is getting through that we need to prevent litter from ending up in our waterways, beaches and communities, but there is still more to do."

Mr Speakman said, litter reduction was expected to "pick up pace" from July next year, when the NSW Government's container deposit scheme (CDS) is scheduled to begin.

Under the scheme, 10¢ will be paid for every drink container between 150 millilitres and three litres, and displaying a NSW CDS label, when returned to a depot or reverse vending machine.

Beverage containers to be covered by the NSW CDS made up 9 per cent of littered items in the recent survey.

"This bodes well for July 1, when the container deposit scheme kicks in. Giving people a financial incentive will make them even more likely to do the right thing."

Beverage containers to be covered by the NSW CDS make up 9% of littered items.`

Mr Speakman's confirmation of the July start date follows concern from community and industry figures that the scheme would not be ready to commence in time.

"We are, as an industry body, extremely concerned with the tight timeline, everyone would agree it is extremely tight," Rob Kelman of the Association of Container Deposit System Operators told Fairfax Media in September.

The NSW litter index results are based on a survey of 151 sites, which are surveyed twice a year, including beaches, car parks, highways, industrial sites, recreational parks, residential sites, retail sites and shopping centres.

All litter collected at the chosen sites is coded into six categories; glass, metal, miscellaneous, plastic, paper/cardboard and cigarette butts.

The index, published by the Environment Protection Authority, recorded a reduction in volume across all categories from the previous year except for cigarette butts, which rose in volume and were identified as the most littered item in NSW, making up 33 per cent of all items.

It found that the national volume of litter has decreased by nine per cent since 2014-15.

Despite comments from Mr Speakman that the results showed "signs of positive behavioural change in NSW," in its index report, the EPA noted that the survey "does not provide sufficient information to explain year-to-year fluctuations and it does not measure littering behaviour."

"The idea that the national litter index is a total measure of litter is a bit of a joke," said Dave West​, national policy director of the Boomerang Alliance of 42 environment groups.

"The index is actually really important as a tool to measure litter strategies. I'm not saying the problem is getting worse - there is a lot of money spent on litter - but I don't know any one who works in areas of litter who would be of the opinion that litter is going down anywhere."

This story Sydney's dirty secret - the item responsible for almost 50 per cent of litter first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.