Keep New Zealand Beautiful Announces National Litter Audit Results
Enough cigarettes found across New Zealand for 2,142 per person
Keep New Zealand Beautiful (KNZB) has today announced the results of the 2019 National Litter Audit (NLA), the most
comprehensive litter audit of its scale ever carried out in New Zealand.
The NLA was developed in consultation with Statistics New Zealand, the Department of Conservation and the Ministry for
the Environment with funding from the Waste Minimisation Fund. The audit includes similarities to the Beach Litter
methodology developed by these entities to allow for comparability and standardised monitoring across domains. Over 80%
of the litter and pollution found in our oceans and waterways comes from land, with the United Nations estimating that
there are 46,000 pieces of plastic in every square mile of the ocean. The importance of this audit for both land and sea
litter management is immense.
Keep New Zealand Beautiful is an iconic not-for-profit charitable organisation that has been leading the way in
educating New Zealanders on how to ‘Do The Right Thing’ since 1967. For 52 years they’ve been at the forefront of the
litter abatement movement in New Zealand. As New Zealand’s population and tourism has grown, so has the litter problem.
KNZB are committed to innovation in sustainability to combat litter and continue to serve as leaders in the
Heather Saunderson, KNZB CEO says, “For the first time, New Zealanders now know exactly how much rubbish we are
accumulating and what that rubbish actually is. As we looked at count, weight and volume, some of the results are on par
with international studies. However, there are some surprises as well, such as the volume of disposable nappies littered
across New Zealand. Enough to fill 158 Olympic size swimming pools! So, there’s much work still to be done.”
KNZB undertook the audit from February to July and compiled data through the physical inspection and visual counting of
litter in a number of specific, fixed sites. The audit covered quantities, types, locations and brands of litter
disposed across the country.
“As you can imagine it has been a huge undertaking but a critical one for New Zealand. Now we have a benchmark and can
use future audits as a tool to track our progress. Our G.J. Gardner Homes Clean Up Week on 9-15 September is a good
example of one of our behavioural change campaigns that KNZB runs across the country, changing the landscape of New
Zealand through educating, inspiring and empowering more New Zealanders, to keep New Zealand clean. From the research
it’s clear that Clean Up Week is more important than ever and we’d encourage businesses, schools, marae and community
groups to sign up here
and get involved.”
A minimum of five areas per local authority were audited, across a mix of site types; public recreational spaces, car
parks, industrial, residential and retail sites, as well as a mix of railways and highways. More than 40 sites in the
Auckland region were monitored to account for the size of the population.
The NLA addresses the land-based litter problem by providing Tier 1 statistics and baseline data on litter across New
Zealand to help inform local and national policy development and will provide the basis for ongoing environmental
reporting on litter.
Executive director of Packaging New Zealand, Sharon Humphreys, says the National Litter Audit opens up a new level of
conversation between institutions in New Zealand. “The work done by Keep New Zealand Beautiful not only gives us a
baseline to measure future initiatives from, but allows us to draw a line in the sand and respond as a collective to
hard facts. This is the litter situation in New Zealand as it is at the moment; the question is, what can we do as a
nation to improve it?”
The cumulative results from the research and initiatives reported in this summary provide a foundation for the next
generation of litter prevention activities. Keep New Zealand Beautiful are focussed on education, behaviour change and
working with leaders of industry who are committed to sustainability. To this end, Keep New Zealand Beautiful have
partnered with DB Breweries whose mission it is to ‘brew a better New Zealand’. Further details of this partnership will
be released in due course.
The next audit will be crucial, says Saunderson, to fully understand the litter flux. “To truly understand and combat
New Zealand’s litter issue, we will need to revisit these sites within three years’ time. Changes in litter type and the
accumulation of litter can be used to assess the effectiveness of management strategies, identify sources and activities
leading to the production of land (and subsequently waterway) litter and to determine threats to our ecosystem.”
The full 255-page report is available to download at knzb.org.nz
KEY OUTAKES (extrapolated data)
NLA results as quoted against a 1000 m2 site area and extrapolated across the area of New Zealand.
10,269,090,000 littered cigarette butts polluting our ecosystem
2,142 per person in New Zealand
394,965,000 litres of littered disposable nappies across New Zealand
Enough to fill 158 Olympic sized swimming pools
3,686,340,000 individual fragments of littered plastic can be found in New Zealand
36,863 plastic pieces for every native kiwi.
New Zealand is littered with 258,043,800 litres of takeaway containers
Enough to fill 25 rugby fields one metre high
265,324,848 litres of illegal dumping across New Zealand’s highways and railways
Enough to fill 2,123 rail carriages to the height of 151 Auckland Sky Towers