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Filthy drains unveiled as major source of marine pollution

Drain Contents

This morning we launched a hard-hitting public campaign showing how litter dropped on the street makes its way to our beaches.

The message is brought home by a disturbing photo of a storm water drain in Auckland’s CBD, exposing what is perhaps New Zealand’s greatest contributor to harmful rubbish in our waters – careless littering by people on our city streets.

We removed the floating rubbish from the same inner-city drain that features in the campaign and counted it, finding 130 individual pieces in that drain alone.

The count: 32 food wrappers, 28 cigarette butts and cigarette packets, 27 pieces of polystyrene, 14 pull tabs from beverage bottles, 8 cosmetic items, 4 lollipop sticks, 4 plastic beverage bottles, 3 beverage bottle lids, 3 cigarette lighters, 3 plastic bags, 2 glass beverage bottles, 1 toy and 1 drinking straw.

When compared to analyses of litter found on the coast, the data showed that the biggest offenders are single use plastics – both in city drains and where city-born rubbish lands offshore, such as islands of the Hauraki Gulf and the Coromandel Peninsula.

Time and again we find that disposable products – which are unnecessary in the first place – are the worst offenders and are all-too-frequently discarded irresponsibly.

While surveying nearly half of the drains on Queen Street we collected 1,969 individual pieces of rubbish in only 33 drains; a shocking average of 59 pieces per drain. Such concentrations indicate that as a nation we have a significant impact on global pollution in the ocean. We counted just a handful of drains out of the many thousands in our cities; you can find drains like these nationwide. The effect of this constant stream of litter is huge.

It was sad to see the quality of the water which is entering our ocean today. The drain system is clearly a significant source of rubbish getting into our waterways.

We are encouraging kiwis to take personal responsibility for their litter. The simple solution is up to all of us as individuals: reduce the amount of waste we create and what we must use, dispose of it properly.

Then it won’t end up on our beaches.