Greater Sydney Harbour Litter Prevention Project

Sculpture showing the impact of marine litter on the environment were on display in iconic locations across the Sydney region as part of the Don’t be a Tosser! campaign (Source: NSW EPA).

Overview of the Regional Litter Prevention Strategy

The Sydney Coastal Councils Group and Parramatta River Catchment Group are proud to announce the launch of the Greater Sydney Harbour Regional Litter Prevention Strategy – For a Litter Free Greater Sydney.

Development of the strategy was supported with grant funding through the NSW Environment Protection Authority’s Community Litter Grants Program in 2021-22 and is the product of broad council and community engagement.

The focus of the strategy is to reduce the amount of litter entering Sydney Harbour, its catchments and waterways and ultimately the marine environment. A community perceptions survey conducted during 2021 found that 82% of respondents believed that litter is a problem in waterways. Litter can end up in the marine environment, even if it starts its journey way up in the catchment and is not captured on its way downstream.

Reducing the amount of litter entering our waterways requires a regional approach across councils and community and a variety of litter prevention actions covering education, rewards, infrastructure, enforcement and measurement. The NSW Government has set targets of 60% litter reduction by 2030 and 30% reduction in plastic litter by 2025 in NSW. The Regional Litter Prevention Strategy for Greater Sydney Harbour will contribute to these targets.

If you want to know more, you can read the strategy here.

Strategy implementation and targeted on-ground projects

Further funding has been granted under the EPA’s Community Litter Grants Program to implement the initial phases of the strategy in 2022-2023. This funding has allowed the appointment of a Regional Litter Prevention Coordinator who will work closely with all stakeholders to implement the strategy. Collaboration across councils, community, business, industry and State Government will be key to achieving the regional approach to litter prevention.

Many litter prevention projects are underway across Greater Sydney, with community groups doing regular clean-ups and councils and community organisations conducting education and awareness campaigns. Well located signage and bins are crucial to providing opportunities for the correct disposal of rubbish before it becomes litter. The strategy will support these many on-ground projects, celebrate achievements in litter prevention and provide examples of what can be done to reduce litter.

Some of the pilot case studies this year include:

  • Installing Don’t be a Tosser signage at selected litter hotspots to complement local council’s education. Planning is currently underway in partnership with Inner West, Cumberland and Hornsby Councils.
  • Delivering school education program focused on litter prevention in partnership with Take 3 for the Sea and Keep Australia Beautiful.

Community Litter Forum

The first online Community Litter Forum was held on 28 September 2022 which garnered wide community interests in litter prevention. Participants had a highly engaged discussion as they learned about what’s currently being done to tackle litter, including the Greater Sydney Harbour Litter Prevention Project, the Groundswell Project by Take 3 for the Sea, the diversity of community and business engagement initiatives carried out by Northern Beaches Council, as well as the amazing work of local eco-champions by the Friends of Toongabbie Creek. From bringing together tourism businesses, to creating a dialogue between passionate community groups and making waste artworks, the wide range of projects reminded everyone that we all play a critical role in litter prevention, no matter how small or big our actions may be. The forum inspired participants to start taking actions today, whether it is to advocate to others about litter prevention, to join a local litter prevention project, or to simply refuse single-use plastics. These are all crucial steps that will progressively enable us to achieve our vision for “A Litter-Free Greater Sydney”.

A very successful Litter Prevention Catchment Bus Tour was held on 23 February 2023. The bus tour took participants on an interactive journey to visualise the catchment wide impacts of litter and empowered them to take part in source reduction initiatives by showcasing a diversity of pilot examples of what can be done to prevent litter across the Greater Sydney Harbour catchment. Participants networked with like-minded individuals who joined from a diversity of GSH councils, organisations and community groups, as they learned about the collaborative regional approach to litter prevention. Participants visited 6 sites across the catchment and received 8 presentations representing a breadth of litter prevention initiatives.

Map of sites and photos from the Litter Prevention Catchment Bus Tour.


Litter prevention web portal

A key implementation outcome will be the development of a centralised litter prevention web portal, which will provide a catchment-wide, shared knowledge base for ongoing litter prevention. It will celebrate achievements in litter prevention, provide examples of what can be done to reduce litter and important links to litter prevention resources.

Watch this space as the web portal develops!