EPA targets cigarette litter bugs

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SMOKERS flicking lit cigarette butts from their cars are those most frequently fined each year by the Environment Protection Authority Victoria – especially on the Mornington Peninsula.

They are among thousands fined for general littering: Last year, the EPA issued 12,984 litter infringement notices state-wide. Over a four-year period, nearly 1000 fines were issued on the Mornington Peninsula.

As the summer tourism season approaches, the Mornington Peninsula will host thousands of day trippers and holiday makers at its many attractions.

But, EPA statistics show that it’s also the season for litterbugs with an increase in reports over December and January.

“We see a significant increase in litter reports as summer arrives on the peninsula,” EPA southern metro manager Steve Lansdell said.

“This summer we want to make sure the message gets across loud and clear; littering is not on. What is thrown on our streets can end up in our bay and do tremendous environmental damage.

“If you see someone littering please let EPA or council know, especially if it’s a lit cigarette thrown from a car causing a fire hazard.  EPA can issue a fine of up to $645. If the matter goes to court and is unsuccessfully challenged, magistrates usually take a very dim view with significant fines being imposed.

One case in Broadmeadows earned the culprits $2400 in fines and $3500 in costs.”

But it’s not just those flicking their butts out the window who are doing damage to the peninsula reserves and foreshore. “We’ve also recently investigated reports of illegally dumped waste at public parks at Hastings and dumped excavation material at Baxter,” Mr Lansdell said.

“It’s disappointing that people show such disregard for this beautiful part of the world. Everyone knows not to drop litter. We learn that as soon as we start school, and everyone certainly knows they shouldn’t drive into public parkland and dump their old lounges, TVs and used baby nappies.

“Unfortunately, identifying the people is often difficult without witnesses.

“As we come into summer we want the community to stay vigilant, take photos if it’s safe, and report what they’ve seen by calling 1300 372 842. The fire risk this season is high and everyone can help by reporting litterers and cigarette throwers.

“To make a litter infringement stick, we need the car’s details, including registration number if a car was involved, and details about where and when the incident occurred. If we don’t know about the offence EPA can’t act. The public is our best eyes and ears.”

Mornington Shire mayor Cr David Gill said the peninsula’s wildlife was at particular risk. “Illegal dumping poses a serious threat to our wildlife and can lead to contamination of land, waterways and groundwater,” Cr Gill said.

“There are plenty of ways to do the right thing with a long list of items able to be disposed of for little or no cost at our resource recovery centres.

“It’s not hard to do the right thing: anyone who isn’t able to get to the centre can use their rates vouchers to book a kerbside collection.”

More information about EPA Victoria’s litter reporting program is available on epa.vic.gov.au

First published in the Frankston Times – 26 November 2018

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