Litter and illegal dumping legislation

Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011

Queensland’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 (WRR Act) contains a suite of measures to reduce waste generation and landfill disposal and encourage recycling. It establishes a framework to modernise waste management and resource recovery practices, promotes waste avoidance and reduction, and encourages resource recovery.

The WRR Act also provides provisions to manage litter and illegal dumping across Queensland.

\ Under the WRR Act, it is an offence for a person to unlawfully deposit waste. A full list of the offences and penalties can be found below.

The WRR Act identifies litter and illegal dumping offences as:

  • littering under 200L, including littering from a vehicle or vessel
  • dangerous littering under 200L
  • illegal dumping—200L or more, to less than 2500L
  • illegal dumping—2500L and over.

Dangerous littering is litter that causes or is likely to cause harm to a person, property or the environment. This includes throwing a lit cigarette butt onto dry grass in high fire danger conditions, leaving a syringe in a public place, or smashing a glass bottle on the footpath.

The WRR Act allows members of the public who have witnessed a littering or illegal dumping incident the opportunity to report it. The law also allows authorised persons to issue penalty infringement notices (fines) as well as compliance notices for the clean-up of the illegal dumping. This may involve the collection, transportation, storage, treatment or disposal of the waste to ensure the impact on the environment is minimised and the person responsible does not impose a cost to the administering authority.

If a person fails to comply with a compliance notice to clean-up illegal dumping, they may face further penalties.

WRR Act Penalties

Waste Reduction and Recycling Act 2011 section and offence PIN amount for individuals PIN amount for corporations Maximum penalty in court for individuals Maximum penalty in court for corporations
103(1)(a): dangerous littering $619 $2,476 $6,192 $30,960
103(1)(b): general littering $309 $1,548 $4,644 $23,220
104(1)(a): illegal dumping less than 2500L of waste $2,476 $7,740 $61,920 $309,600
104(1)(b): illegal dumping more than 2500L of waste $3,096 $11,610 $154,800* $774,000*
251(c): A person must comply with a compliance notice $1,548 $7,740 $46,440 $232,200
Section 265: giving false or misleading information _ _ $257,742 $1,288,710

*Or twice the waste levy that was avoided (whichever is greater).
Please note: Penalties are current at the time of publication and may be subject to change.

Environmental Protection Act 1994

The Environmental Protection Act 1994 (EP Act) objective is to protect Queensland’s environment while allowing for development that improves the total quality of life, both now and in the future, in a way that maintains ecological processes.

In the case where the littered or illegally dumped wastes cause serious or material environmental harm, it would be managed under the EP Act. A range of compliance tools such as penalty infringement notices (fines), direction notices, clean-up notices and environmental protection orders can be used to manage these offences.

All Queenslanders, including businesses and citizens, have a legal duty to meet general environmental protection obligations in Queensland. The EP Act lists obligations and offences to prevent environmental harm, nuisances and contamination.

The two primary duties (Meeting environmental obligations and duties) that apply to everyone in Queensland are the:

  • general environmental duty - not to carry out an activity that may cause harm without taking measures to prevent or minimise the harm
  • duty to notify of environmental harm - to inform the relevant authority and landowners when environmental harm has occurred or might occur.

Other Queensland legislation

The Queensland Government shares responsibility for the management of waste and for the management of those areas impacted by littered and illegally dumped wastes. This is achieved in accordance with the respective legislation, policies and programs. The below Queensland legislations have been identified as contributing to the management of waste, or of those locations impacts by littered and illegally dumped wastes.

The Nature Conservation Act 1992 (NC Act) provides for the protection of native wildlife, ecosystems and to allow for the conservation of areas of high ecological values within protected areas. The objective of the NC Act is the conservation of nature, while allowing for the involvement of indigenous people in the management of protected areas in which they have an interest under Aboriginal tradition or Island custom.

The Forestry Act 1959 provides for forest reservations, the management, silvicultural treatment and protection of State forests, including the management of pollution and waste in State forests and timber reserves. The Forestry Act further provides for the sale and disposal of forest products and quarry material, the property of the Crown on State forests, timber reserves and on other lands.

Pest animals, plants and diseases are major threats to biodiversity and wetland values. These are easily transported through illegal dumping of organics and soils. The Biosecurity Act 2014 provides a framework and powers for the management of biosecurity threats such as pest plants, animals and diseases. The Biosecurity Act imposes a ‘general biosecurity obligation’ (GBO) on all Queenslanders. The GBO means that everyone is responsible for managing biosecurity risks that are under their control and that they know about or should reasonably be expected to know about.

The high demand for use of coastal land by the community can result in coastal environments becoming degraded or used for purposes contrary to the objectives of the Coastal Protection and Management Act 1995 (Coastal Act).This act provides for the protection and management of coastal resources and biodiversity, including coastal wetlands, and ensures decisions about land use development safeguard life and property from the threat of coastal hazards. It achieves this by defining coastal management districts and erosion-prone areas where coastal planning and development assessment provisions apply under the planning framework.

The Environmental Protection (Water and Wetland Biodiversity) Policy 2019 (the Water and Wetland EPP), made under the EP Act, establishes environmental values for Queensland waters and wetlands. Water quality guidelines and water quality objectives are also stated in the Water and Wetland EPP. Another important function of the Water and Wetland EPP is that it provides for the development and implementation of healthy waters management plans, which are a key planning mechanism to improve the quality of Queensland waters.

Queensland’s principal planning legislation, Planning Act 2016 establishes the framework for Queensland’s planning system. The purpose of the state’s planning legislation is to establish an efficient and accountable system of land-use planning and development assessment that will lead to ecological sustainability. The Planning Act defines ecological sustainability as a balance between:

  • the protection of ecological processes and natural systems at local, regional, state and national levels economic development
  • the cultural, economic, physical and social wellbeing of Queenslanders.

A fatberg is a congealed mass in a sewer system formed by the combination of flushed non-biodegradable solid matter, such as wet wipes, and congealed grease or cooking fat. The Water Supply (Safety and Reliability) Act 2008 provides a regulatory framework for the safety and reliability of water and sewage services. It also identifies items as sewage contaminants provides a list of those prohibited substances, which include metal, glass, plastics, oil and grease.