Government extends support for Litter Intelligence | Sustainable Coastlines

Government continues support for groundbreaking litter data
on the build-up of plastic in our environment


New Zealand’s first national coastal litter database, Litter Intelligence, was first launched in 2018 by Sustainable Coastlines, as part of a three-year deed with the Ministry for the Environment (MfE). In light of the success of the programme, the government has awarded a one-year extension to continue the much needed data collection to help inspire action and work towards a litter-free Aotearoa.

Litter Intelligence is a long-term initiative to help solve the plastic-pollution problem and uses innovative, open-source technology to collect data, provide powerful insights and inspire action. It is helping to build a better understanding of the plastic problem, and has already been used for individual actions, community-led solutions, informing policy and environmental reporting.

Sustainable Coastlines engages with communities around the country and thoroughly trains citizen scientists to collect data on litter while simultaneously inspiring solutions through its nationwide school education programmes and interactive website,

Litter Intelligence programme manager, Shawn Elise Tierney says the organisation is really proud of the work they’ve achieved since Litter Intelligence launched in 2018. To date, Litter Intelligence has completed 1,000 surveys of beach, freshwater & stormwater sites across 300 survey areas through 12,535 volunteer hours. It also won the Tech for Good Award at the 2020 Sustainable Business Awards.

“We cannot improve what we do not measure. We launched with the Ministry for the Environment’s brilliant support, and here we continue to work together in light of the successes the programme continues to achieve, time and time again”, adds Shawn Elise.

Community day, Howick, Eastern Beach, Auckland 15 June 2021
Photo credit: Irena Cima Photography

Earlier this year, Litter Intelligence data was used to help inform decision making on the government’s plan to tackle problem plastics and single-use plastic items and provided key evidence to prioritise this proposal.

Of the programme, Hon David Parker, Minister for the Environment has previously said, “The data set that is being provided by Sustainable Coastlines is a huge advantage to the Ministry for the Environment as a public policy tool, as it shows the areas that are most problematic and highlights to us the things that can be fixed.”

Litter Intelligence’s data collection methodology is based on United Nations guidelines and was co-designed alongside the Ministry for the Environment, Stats NZ and the Department of Conservation. The detailed training, combined with user-friendly technology, allows environmental data to be submitted by communities at the highest standard, so it can be used by government agencies for national and international reporting, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The additional funding provided by MfE will enable the charity to continue supporting existing volunteer groups to collect data all over the country, including schools participating in the Litter Intelligence Education Programme (LIEP). It will also continue its quality control measures to ensure the data is rigorous enough for governmental reporting on the state of the environment. Sustainable Coastlines will also continue to offer LIEP Professional Development to educators and run ‘train the trainer’ workshops to expand the programme’s reach.

The funding will also allow for new workstreams to explore how to increase accessibility for tangata whenua, research and develop workshops on using data to take action to effect change, and collaborate with existing interest groups to facilitate data collection for freshwater and stormwater locations. Funding will also support ongoing tech costs.

“The ultimate goal of Litter Intelligence is that data is used to inspire action — at all levels: schools, policy, community infrastructure, product design, etc.,”, adds Shawn Elise.

“The single-use plastic ban announced earlier this year is a good example of this on a government scale but we are also interested in communities using their own local data to effect change in their own neighbourhoods. We thank the Ministry for the Environment for their trust in our platform and cause, and we look forward to another step closer to a litter-free Aotearoa”.

To check out the status of your local beach please visit:

To learn more about Sustainable Coastlines please visit:

If you’re interested in learning more about the Litter Intelligence programme or becoming a citizen scientist, please visit 

For enquiries and interviews, contact Shawn Elise Tierney;
[email protected] mb 022 410 8340

For high res images or video content, contact Helen Adams-Blackburn; [email protected] org mb 021 022 05352