The West

Lazy litterbugs told to clean up their act
Environment Minister Bill Marmion

Litterbugs are sullying WA's image and need to take more pride in their State, according to Environment Minister Bill Marmion.

Responding to new figures that show WA continues to have one of the worst littering rates in Australia, Mr Marmion described litterbugs as irresponsible and, in some cases, a public health menace.

"People need to take responsibility for their own actions and have a bit of pride," he said. "Especially our beaches - there is no excuse to drop rubbish or cigarette butts on our beautiful beaches.

"People need to start showing some respect for the environment they live in."

With significantly tougher penalties for littering tipped to become law within a month, the new figures show WA was second only to NSW as the most littered State or Territory in 2010-11.

The data is based on nationwide audits in November 2010 and May last year. The audits found the typical amount of rubbish found in every 1000sqm in WA was 9.03 litres, almost one-third more than the national average and only marginally less than NSW (10.72 litres).

The Northern Territory was the least littered, with 3.16 litres.

In WA, cigarette butts were the most common type of rubbish found, while plastic, paper, metal and glass accounted for the most rubbish by volume.

Mr Marmion noted WA's littering rate had been declining since 2007-08, when it had Australia's worst recycling record, but he said the latest result was not good enough.

He said the figures justified the State Government's decision to beef up fines for littering.

Under the laws, which are yet to be enacted more than two years after they were announced, those caught dropping hazardous material such as glass or lit cigarette butts are liable to on-the-spot penalties of $500, up from $200.

The fine for dumping an unlit cigarette butt will jump from $75 to $200.

"Not only is litter unsightly, it can be dangerous when you consider the potential impact of discarded syringes, broken glass and lit cigarette butts," Mr Marmion said. "The Fire and Emergency Services Authority estimates that up to 12 per cent of fires are started by lit cigarette butts.

"This is especially worrying with summer approaching."

Keep Australia Beautiful Council of WA chairman Mel Hay, whose organisation published the figures in its latest annual report, said authorities had plenty of work to do.

"There is still a lot of improvement needed to achieve our aim of a 25 per cent reduction in litter by 2014," Mr Hay said.

Shadow environment parliamentary secretary Chris Tallentire said Labor supported the tougher new littering laws but claimed the Government had dragged its heels over the issue.

"It just seems the Government doesn't treat this as an issue of importance and yet I think most of us would see littering as something which is an embarrassment and something we should be ashamed of," Mr Tallentire said.

The West Australian

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