The volume of roadside rubbish in Australia has fallen since 2009 but there’s still around 34 bits of rubbish for every 100 metres of highway. The problem extends to back roads across the country too. Some beautiful and remote places regularly fall victim to illegal dumping and the rubbish that people throw out of their cars.
The impacts aren’t just visual, there are health hazards too. People dump hazardous substances, defecate, and dump hard refuse and organic waste in rest areas. The economic impact on everyone via government funded clean ups is huge, topping nine million dollars in NSW annually.
The Keep Australia Beautiful 2016 ‐ 2017 National Litter Index says that while the volume of rubbish collected from highway survey sites dropped 13% last year, highways are still second only to industrial areas in the total volume of rubbish found.
The NLI report doesn’t account for another gross part of travelling the highways. Illegal dumping. Again, highways are second only to industrial areas for this offense. In this article, NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay said the NSW government spent more than $9 million on clean-up costs each year with one rest area costing more than $850,000 to clean up annually.
I wouldn’t recommend straying too far off the road at rest areas. When the surrounding shrubs are garlanded with toilet paper it should be an indication of the disgusting hidden problem lurking.
In addition to highways departments organising and funding clean ups, Australian ‘Adopt-A-Highway’ programs have been in operation for many years. Groups, businesses and individuals volunteer to clean up and maintain stretches of road around their community. These initiatives range from local council to statewide programs.
Government roadside rubbish prevention programs like Western Australia’s Roadside Litter Prevention Project hand out free in car garbage bags and use roadside signage and bin stickers to raise awareness and decrease littering rates. Most states have a ‘dob in a litterer’ service in one form or another. Sadly, South Australia’s ‘dob in a litterer’ website and app is now defunct even though it received 1300 reports resulting in 800 fines being issued.
There are rubbish bins in every park, in every service station, and at every rest area.
There’s no reason to throw rubbish out of a car, yet people still do. What can we do about it?
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