Single-use plastics dominate the plastic litter items collected from coastal cleanups in Aotearoa New Zealand

Sustainable Coastlines developed Litter Intelligence – a citizen science-based initiative to measure litter on Aotearoa New Zealand’s coastlines and collate data in a national coastal litter database. Following a standardised method based on international best practice (UNEP/IOC guidelines on surveying and monitoring of marine litter), citizen scientists survey a coastal site and record the type and weight of each piece of litter found. The data meets Statistics NZ Tier 1 data standards, meaning it can feed into government environmental reporting. Of note, items less than 5 mm in diameter are not recorded, so the findings do not quantify the scale of microplastic pollution. The project is ongoing, with surveys repeated quarterly at the same site, and data are updated in realtime at litterintelligence.org. Over the coming years, the national database will be able to inform and measure the impacts of policy changes and public education campaigns. A snapshot of litter intelligence data as of October 2019 is shown in the figure below. Single-use plastics dominate the plastic litter items collected from coastal cleanups in Aotearoa New Zealand.

A snapshot of beach clean-up data from Litter Intelligence

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