With its sunlit plains and starlit skies, South Western Queensland ranks among Australia’s finest locations for agriculture and tourism.

Now a group of committed locals are banding together to make sure it stays that way, and to raise awareness of the impact litter and illegal dumping has on communities and the environment.

Dubbed the South West Region Roadside Litter HotSpots Project, it’s comprised of working groups from across the region that gather to clean up roadside mess and find new ways to stop people from littering in the first place.

Members include six South Western Queensland councils, the Queensland Murray-Darling Committee (QMDC) and the Australian Packaging Covenant, which is sponsored by Coca-Cola.

 “It’s important to do something about roadside littering because plastics and other rubbish are being dumped on the roadside and impact areas set aside for vegetation and native fauna,” said QMDC chief executive officer Geoff Penton.

“It not only looks bad – broken glass can start grass fires, while plastic can also choke native animals and some pollutants can impact water quality.”

The project’s participants are also conducting research into why people litter, what they throw away, and what impact it has on the surrounding countryside. This information will then be used to create information campaigns, and promote the community working bees that help keep roadways litter free.

“If we just do a physical clean up and don’t adjust people’s behaviour, the project will not have a long term impact,” said Geoff. “We need to make it less satisfactory in people’s minds that it’s okay to dump rubbish.”

A strong supporter of the project, Andrew Powell, Queensland Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection, has already joined a roadside clean up as part of the project.

“Litter dropped along the side of the road, or in bushland, can be washed or blown into creeks and rivers and ultimately pollutes land, waterways and ocean environments,” Andrew Powell said. “This project aims is to raise awareness of the impact litter and illegal dumping has on communities and the environment, and to clean up the mess.”

Minister Powell says he believes the project will reduce the financial and environmental burden on local councils and help create cleaner, safer roadways throughout Queensland.