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Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

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Reporting littering from vehicles - frequently asked questions

Making a report

What does the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) do about littering from motor vehicles?

Since February 2015, members of the community have been able to report littering from motor vehicles. Based on the report, we can issue a penalty notice for littering from a vehicle to the owner of the vehicle.

Is Report to EPA for littering from vehicles effective?

Yes. In the first year of Report to EPA for littering from vehicles

  • nearly 10,000 people registered to report littering from vehiclesf
  • over 12,000 reports of littering from a vehicle were made
  • more than 8000 fines were issued by the EPA.

The NSW Government is serious about reducing litter and has committed to cut the volume of litter in NSW by 40% by 2020. Report to EPA forms a part of the solution, with the ultimate goal being that no one will be reported or fined for littering, because no one will litter.

What are the laws covering littering from a motor vehicle?

Littering from a motor vehicle is covered under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) (sections 145-146). The vehicle owner is deemed liable for littering unless they provide a statutory declaration stating the details of the person responsible for the littering, or the person in charge of the vehicle at the time of the alleged offence.

How much is the fine for committing the offence of littering from a motor vehicle?

The fine for committing the offence of littering from a motor vehicle is

  • $500 if the vehicle is owned by a corporation or
  • $250 if the vehicle is owned by an individual.

Do fines automatically increase during the fire season?

No. Fines for littering under the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act) do not increase during the fire season.

However the Rural Fire Service (RFS) has its own penalties for the littering of cigarette butts from vehicles. Fines under the Rural Fires Act 1997 do increase during Total Fire Bans. For more information, call RFS on 02 8741 5555 or visit the RFS website .  

Do fines increase if a person is reported more than once?

No, the fine remains the same regardless of the number of times a person receives a penalty notice for littering from a motor vehicle.

How do you validate reports of littering from a vehicle made by the community?

Once a report is made there are several steps taken to verify the report before any fine is issued.

The vehicle information provided in the report is authenticated against Roads and Maritime Services records and we review at least 18 other mandatory categories of information in the report. If all of the mandatory information requirements are complete, consistent and plausible, then a fine will be issued.

When a report is made, reporters are required to confirm that they understand the EPA terms and conditions, their obligation to submit accurate reports, that it is a crime to provide false or misleading information, and that they are prepared to attend court as a witness, if required.

A penalty for a littering offence is like any other offence. That is, a person may choose to have the matter heard in court and the presumption of innocence applies. It is the responsibility of the prosecution (the EPA), to prove the offence occurred.

What if a person is tempted to make an untrue or malicious report?

When a person registers to become a reporter they must read and agree to the terms and conditions for reporting including

  • that the information provided is true and correct
  • that it is a crime to knowingly provide false or misleading information
  • that a reporter is prepared to go to court as a witness

Reporters must register to report and provide their personal details and a valid mobile phone number which we verify with an SMS text code. Reporters without a mobile phone must provide a copy of their photo identification.

What has happened to the Report to EPA mobile app?

The Report to EPA mobile app has been replaced by Report to EPA online for mobile devices, which guarantees a better user experience on mobile phones and on the desktop. You can add the Report to EPA icon to your mobile phone homescreen.

Who can report littering from motor vehicles?

Any member of the community who observes littering from a motor vehicle can report using Report to EPA.

  • You will need to register and create an account to submit the report.
  • You must be prepared to attend court as a witness if required. (Based on recent statistics 4% of people receiving a fine elect to go to court)
  • You have an obligation to submit accurate reports, and it is a crime to provide false or misleading information

How do I report littering from a motor vehicle?

You can report littering online or by using  Report to EPA on your mobile phone.

The first time you make a report you will be asked to register and to create an account. You must provide a mobile phone number so you can be verified and receive an SMS text code number to complete the registration process. If you do not have a mobile phone, you must provide a certified copy of your photo identification such as a driver’s licence or passport.

Can I report littering from a motor vehicle by fax, email or to Environment Line?

No, reports can only be made online or using Report to EPA from your mobile.

Why do I have to register and provide personal details to be able to submit a report?

The EPA issues fines for littering from a motor vehicle based on reports by the community. By registering to report and providing your personal details, we can be confident your details are correct and up-to-date.

We may need to contact you about your report, and if the offender chooses to have the matter dealt with in court you may be required to attend court as a witness. (Based on recent statistics 4% of people receiving a fine elect to go to court)

By registering, you agree to the EPA terms and conditions, and to attend court as a witness if required. You have an obligation to submit accurate reports as it is a crime to provide false or misleading information.

Who will have access to my details? Will they be given to the person who littered?

The EPA will have access to your details, but will not release any information to anyone else unless the offender chooses to have the matter dealt with in court. If you have reported a person for littering from a motor vehicle and that person chooses to have the matter heard before a  court, your identity may be known to the court and to the defendant.

We are required to comply with the NSW Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998.

What must I have seen in order to report littering from a motor vehicle?

You can report littering from a motor vehicle to the EPA if you  see

  • The driver or any occupant of a vehicle throwing or discarding litter from the vehicle onto a public space, including public roads, shopping centre car parks, public car parks, fast food outlet car parks, or any other public space.

or

  • Litter falling or being blown off a vehicle (including a trailer or off the back of a utility vehicle) onto a public space, including public roads, shopping centre car parks, public car parks, fast food outlet car parks, or any other public space.

If you see a person littering near a vehicle without being inside the vehicle, for example in a car park, you should not make a report, as the litter must actually come from a vehicle.

How much time do I have to submit a report?

Your report must be submitted to the EPA within 14 days from when you saw the littering occur. However, you should submit the report as soon as you can, and keep any evidence such as notes, photographs or videos.

What type of litter can I report?

  • cigarettes (lit or unlit)
  • food or drink items
  • paper or cardboard
  • drink containers such as paper or plastic cups, aluminium cans, glass bottles, etc.

What information will I need to provide with the report?

You must provide

  • the registration number of the vehicle the litter was discarded from
  • the location where you saw the litter being discarded, including the
    • street or road
    • suburb
    • town or city
    • nearest cross street
  • the description of the vehicle including the
    • vehicle make
    • body type (car, utility, van, truck, motor cycle, bus, etc.)
    • colour of the vehicle
    • model of the vehicle (if possible)
  • the date and time you saw the litter being discarded from the vehicle
  • the type of litter you observed being discarded
  • the position in the car of the person who discarded the litter
  • if the litter was thrown, blown or dropped from the vehicle
  • where you were when you saw the littering, for example, in a vehicle in traffic, on foot, on a bicycle.

 any other identifying information such as

  • gender
  • hair color
  • approximate age
  • attire or clothing

Should I provide photos or videos?

Safety first! Your health and safety are more important than reporting littering from a vehicle. If you are driving, ask a passenger to record the details.

It is illegal to use your mobile phone while driving and we are not able to use any information collected illegally.

You can’t submit photos or videos with your report, however, photographs or videos are a useful record to help you make your report and we encourage you to keep them as they can be used if the offender chooses to have the matter heard in Court.

Can I submit a report when I see people delivering newspapers by throwing them from a vehicle?

No, there are exemptions to the litter laws for the delivery of newspapers.

You can contact your local council to report litter from discarded newspapers. Councils are authorised to take action about litter, but it is up to each council to decide how they will proceed.

The  Distributions Standards Board is the industry body that supports a Code of Practice  for the distribution of advertising material and can take action to ensure its members comply with litter laws.

Are there any legal issues covering photographing or filming someone littering?

No. There is no right to privacy in this context, so you can photograph or film someone littering for the purposes of reporting. But remember – you cannot use your mobile phone whilst driving.

Can I report interstate vehicles?

We can process reports made about interstate vehicles from Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, providing the offence you saw was committed in NSW. We can’t act on reports about vehicles registered in Western Australia, the Northern Territory or Tasmania.

Can I report littering that isn’t from a vehicle?

No. We only accept reports from the community about littering from vehicles.

Enforcement officers (for example local council rangers, police officers and authorised members of staff of certain Government bodies or agencies) can issue on-the-spot fines to people littering in public places.

Can I report smoky or noisy vehicles?

Yes, smoky and noisy vehicles can be reported online or using Report to EPA from your mobile.

What is the likelihood of having to go to court as a witness?

Based on the most recent statistics, around 4% of people that receive a fine have challenged the fine by electing to have a court hear the case. 

If that happens in respect to your report, we will contact you  to find out more about what you saw. You may be asked to provide a statement or to go to court as a witness.

You should keep notes and any photographs or videos about your littering report as there can be quite a time lag between a fine being issued and any possible court appearance.

What will happen if I register and report an offence but refuse to attend court if requested?

As part of submitting a report you ticked a box agreeing to attend court if required.

If you later refuse to attend court, the matter may be dropped and any fine for littering withdrawn. Depending on the circumstances we may not accept any further reports for littering from a vehicle from you.

What can I expect if I have to go to Court as a witness?

If the recipient of a penalty notice chooses to have the matter heard in Court, it is likely you will be asked to provide a written statement of what you saw. Your statement may be provided to the  offender before the matter is heard in Court.

At Court, as a witness under oath, you may be cross-examined by the defendant’s legal representative or the defendant themselves. The Magistrate or Judge may also ask questions. See the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions website for information on being a witness.

Is there compensation available if a person takes time off work to attend court?

Reasonable expenses may be reimbursed for witnesses, including the costs of attending court.

How long is my reporting registration valid for?

Once you have registered, your user ID is valid until you de-register or if you have not made a littering report for three years.

What happens if I forget my password?

Use the Forgotten your password link to reset your password. Enter your email address and you will be sent an email containing a link to reset your password. Click that link in the email and it will take you to a web page to reset your password. Once you have reset your password you will be able to login with this new password.

How do I change the details I provided when I registered?

You can change your details through My profile which is located on the left hand side bar of each reporting page and can be accessed at any time. If you change your mobile number, an SMS text message will be sent to validate your new details.

How do I include the location of the offence in the report?

  • Enter the street name and suburb where you saw the littering.
  • Enter the closest cross street if you know it, or find it on the map that appears.
  • Drag the pin on the map to the exact location. Please check the street name is correct before you submit your report.

What happens if the reporting system is down?

The Report to EPA online reporting relies on internet technologies outside our control. We do not guarantee continuous accessibility or uninterrupted operation. The EPA will not be liable for any loss, damage, cost or expense resulting from any delay in operation or transmission, communications failure, internet access difficulties and malfunctions in equipment or software.

How do I de-register or opt out?

To de-register please contact the EPA. If you have made a report, your details associated with that report will be kept on record. 

If you have not used the system for at least three years, your registration will be cancelled.

If you  choose to report in future you will need to register again.

If you receive a penalty notice for littering from a motor vehicle

What do I need to do if I receive a penalty notice?

Under the Fines Act 1996, you are required to

  • pay the amount specified within 28 days

or

  • complete a statutory declaration nominating a different person as the person who committed the offence, or
  • apply to State Debt Recovery to have the circumstances surrounding the issue of the penalty notice reviewed, or
  • choose to have the matter dealt with in court.

What can I do if I believe I have been wrongly reported?

Like other penalty notices that are issued, if you believe you have been wrongly fined for littering from a vehicle there are a number of steps you can take.

If you believe you are not responsible for littering from your vehicle, do not contact the EPA. You can

  •  Contact the State Debt Recovery (SDR) Office on 1300 138 118 (7:30 am – 8:00 pm, Monday to Friday) or visit the State Debt Recovery website.
  • Complete a statutory declaration providing the details of the person responsible (for example a passenger or someone who was using your vehicle) and submit it to SDR. The penalty notice will then be issued to the person responsible.
  • Complete a Request for Review on the State Debt Recovery website if you believe neither you nor any of your passengers are responsible for littering from your vehicle.

If the review by SDR is unsuccessful you can choose to have the matter heard in court by contacting SDR.  SDR will then inform the EPA you elect to have the matter heard in court. The EPA will review the claim and contact the person who made the report. If there are any anomalies in the report or their recollection of the incident, or if they are not prepared to appear as a witness in court, the matter will not proceed.

A penalty for a littering offence is like any other offence, and you may choose to have the matter heard in court and the presumption of innocence applies. It is the responsibility of the prosecution (the EPA), to prove the offence occurred.

Remember, when deciding whether to submit a statutory declaration or to have the matter heard in court that it is an offence under s 307(b) of the Crimes Act 1900 to knowingly provide false or misleading information to the EPA.

If I choose to go to Court, what can I expect?

The EPA will seek to recover costs associated with conducting the matter, so if you are found guilty of the offence, they may order that you pay all or a portion of the EPA’s  costs, as well as a fine.

See the Legal Aid website for information about going to court.

Who has reported me?

People reporting littering from motor vehicles can be NSW government officers, local council officers or members of the community.   We are bound by privacy laws and can’t reveal the identity of the person who reported you. These privacy laws also prevent your identity being provided to the  reporter. The only time identity may be revealed is if the matter is taken to court.

 

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Page last updated: 09 March 2017