Fines for dropping a cigarette butt in the ACT will increase dramatically from $60 to $500 while littering a coffee cup will incur a $150 fine under the ACT Government’s rigorous new littering laws.
Under the new laws that were passed in the ACT Legislative Assembly on Tuesday, small-items littering, such as tickets or food wrappings, will incur a $150 fine instead of $60.
The laws, which will come into effect in the coming weeks, also increases the fines for not securing a load on a vehicle or a trailer from $500 to $1,500 and for not returning a shopping trolley when directed by an authorised person from $60 to $150.
A framework was also introduced for escalating offences, where penalties increase according to the volume, mass or nature of litter dumped. Dumping under 10 litres of litter will attract a $500 fine, 10 to 200 litres will attract a $1,000 fine, while 200 to 1000 litres will incur a $1,500 fine.
Minister for City Services Chris Steel said the new laws holistically address littering in every form it might occur, and Canberrans should now expect stronger enforcement and penalties for people caught littering and illegally dumping.
Mr Steel said the new aggravated littering offence, which includes cigarette, syringes or matches, sends a strong message to the community about the impact of these items on the city.
“Cigarette butts are the most common form of litter on the planet, and have a significant impact on the environment, releasing toxic chemicals and microplastics,” Mr Steel said. “With a hotter and drier climate, cigarettes present a real fire risk to our bush capital, with 13 per cent of grass fires in the ACT started by cigarettes.”
Mr Steel said the new laws are easier to enforce, with infringement notices able to be issued to the owners of vehicles involved in illegal dumping, similar to speeding fines.
The ACT Government currently spends $3 million a year cleaning, with Access Canberra receiving 1,178 reports of illegal dumping during the first seven months of 2019.
“People who illegally dump waste around our city are on notice today,” Mr Steel said. “These laws and give greater power to authorities to deal with individuals and businesses who choose who seek to spoil our environment or put the community at risk with illegal dumping and littering.”
The ACT Greens voted against the new aggravated littering charge, stating that the new charge would “disproportionately impact” some of the most vulnerable in our community. Greens spokesperson Caroline Le Couteur said the ACT Government’s well-intended legislation shouldn’t be focusing on excessively penalising the homeless.
“Slapping huge littering fines on the homeless, or on drug and alcohol users, isn’t rehabilitative – it’s punitive,” Ms Le Couteur said. “It isn’t going to change behaviour. It will not make our community safer.
“Instead, it will simply compound the disadvantage that those most vulnerable are already experiencing, racking up debts that they may not be able to pay.”
Ms Le Couteur said it isn’t clear if the aggravated littering charge is really even necessary.
“There has not been a single infringement for littering offences by TCCS City Rangers in the past three years, and only eight warnings issued,” Ms Le Couteur said. “In the same period, ACT Policing only issued one infringement for ‘environmental pollution’, and 12 for ‘public health and safety’ offences under the Litter Act.”