Research & Reports

National Litter Index highlighting positive trends and areas of opportunity

The Keep Australia Beautiful (KAB) 2017/18 National Litter Index (NLI) has been released and shows positive trends across the nation and identifies areas of opportunity.

The NLI is Australia’s only annual set of quantitative measures of what litter occurs where and in what volume. Litter counts are carried out twice annually across 983 sites nationally to create an annual report on litter.

According to Val Southam, CEO of KAB, the organisation’s aim was to build a deeper understanding of what is being littered and where and how that is changing over time.

In 2017/18, the NLI counted an overall litter reduction of 10.3 per cent less items than in the same period in 2016/17. The most significant decreases observed are 16.8 per cent reduction in take-away food and beverage packaging, a 14 per cent reduction in CDS beverage containers and a 6.4 per cent reduction in cigarette litter.

The biggest reductions overall by site types monitored are 22.5 per cent at beaches, 21.8 per cent at industrial sites, and 12.9 per cent at retail precincts.

The top 10 most littered items nationally are (this does not include miscellaneous items of litter that are not categorised, readily identifiable or have broken down into small pieces):

  1. Cigarette butts and their packaging
  2. Plastic snack bags and confectionary wrappers
  3. Plastic straws
  4. Plastic bottle tops
  5. Metal bottle tops and can ring pulls
  6. Carbonated soft drink and flavoured water in cans (all sizes)
  7. Paperboard cups and paperboard take-away food containers
  8. Plastic take-away containers and plastic cups
  9. Paper shopping dockets and shopping lists
  10. Paperboard coffee cups

Measured both by ‘item’ and by ‘volume’, littering challenges still exist in shopping centres, residential areas and highways. The highest littered sites by items counted were highways, however volumetrically, industrial sites were the worst affected.

“An interesting observation is that over and above the identifiable items counted there is a massive number of uncategorised, unidentified items that actually sit at number two on the list,” Southam said.

“It is great that we are seeing downward trends, but there is much more to be done to educate and encourage consumers to do the right thing together with Keep Australia Beautiful.”