Co-founder Camden Howitt wraps up 14 years with Sustainable Coastlines | Sustainable Coastlines

Big news for Sustainable Coastlines comes today, with Co-founder and Programmes Director Camden Howitt announcing he is moving on from the charity after nearly 14 years of mahi for our oceans.

Since early 2009, Camden has been a driving force for solutions to ocean pollution. Alongside co-founder Sam Judd, Camden designed and delivered programmes that have removed 1.7 million litres of litter from coastlines, planted 330,000 trees to restore waterways, engaged 150,000 volunteers and provided education for ocean action to 250,000 people.

More recently, Camden spearheaded the 2018 launch of the charity’s newest, award-winning programme Litter Intelligence, training ‘citizen scientists’ at over 300 beaches nationwide to monitor and take action on marine litter and plastic pollution.

A passionate advocate for our moana and awa, Camden has delivered community-based environmental solutions for Sustainable Coastlines around Aotearoa and the Pacific. With his years of strategy, community engagement and programme design experience, Camden combines a deep connection with the outdoors with a drive for collaboration to build large-scale change. A regular contributor to national, regional and global dialogue on sustainability, Camden is an expert at creating innovative solutions that work.

Reflecting on his departure, Camden said that while it was a tough decision, the time was right and he leaves a legacy of well-established programmes and a great team to continue the mahi.

“I’m super excited about the next stage of my journey, and the opportunity to address some of the greatest sustainability challenges Aotearoa faces,” says Camden. “My love for our oceans, and my drive to protect them, is stronger than ever, and I’m committed to continuing to push for better outcomes for our moana.”

Camden (left) at a tree-planting event at Auckland’s Puhinui Reserve

While he is finishing up his Programmes Director role at Sustainable Coastlines, Camden will continue his ongoing mahi to solve plastic pollution through his membership of the Aotearoa Plastic Pollution Alliance, as a Litter Intelligence Citizen Scientist, and through his daily actions.

Announcing Camden’s departure, Sustainable Coastlines Chair Samantha Walmsley-Bartlett said the Board was sad to see Camden move on, but is excited to see the contributions he will continue to make to regenerate te taiao.

“Camden has embodied a passion for restoring and protecting the natural beauty of our coastline. I would like to thank him for his significant contribution to the charity and we all wish him the greatest of success in the future,” says Walmsley-Bartlett.

Camden and the SC whānau at an event at The Flagship Education Centre

“I’m proud of everything our wonderful whānau has achieved over the years, and I consider myself lucky to have been surrounded by so many brilliant, passionate people along the way,” added Howitt.

“I want to thank our Sustainable Coastlines team, our Board, our unwavering partners and supporters, and our incredible network of volunteers who turn up time and time again. Without you Sustainable Coastlines could not have existed, but with you, I know it will continue to thrive.”

Media release: 7 July 2022

With more than 15,000 kilometres of coast, Aotearoa has one of the longest and most stunning stretches of coastline of any country. On a three monthly basis, Litter Intelligence groups across the country visit their local stretch of coastline to record waste findings. This Plastic Free July, award-winning charity Sustainable Coastlines is celebrating the power of this data, and the trailblazing heroes who help collect it: citizen scientists. Now, the efforts of these dedicated individuals are contributing to a Wellbeing Indicator for Stats NZ.

“Plastic Free July is a great time to motivate the masses to be part of solutions to plastic pollution”, says Sustainable Coastlines Co-Founder Camden Howitt. “We created Litter Intelligence to inspire and inform better decisions for a world without litter, and we’re proud that our work with Stats NZ takes us another step forward for better solutions to the plastic crisis.”

Launched in 2018, Litter Intelligence is New Zealand’s first and only national beach litter database. The data collection methodology is based on United Nations Environment Program 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 reporting, which now include the Wellbeing Indicators for Ngā Tūtohu Aotearoa – Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand.

Litter Intelligence data collection in action.

“Stats NZ has partnered with Sustainable Coastlines over the past few years on Litter Intelligence, supporting good data management practice, and open data access,” says Stats NZ Environmental and Agricultural Statistics Senior Manager, Michele Lloyd.

“This data was first used as a case study in the Our Marine Environment 2019 report. I am pleased to see that this data will continue to be used to add value to Ngā Tūtohu Aotearoa – Indicators Aotearoa NZ. This is a great example of how working together with external partners can provide additional data to reduce data gaps for New Zealand.”

Indicators Aotearoa New Zealand was developed by Stats NZ as a source of measures for New Zealand’s wellbeing and aims to help monitor progress around social, economic, cultural and environmental wellbeing. The wellbeing indicators are built on international best practice, and are  tailored to New Zealand. Litter Intelligence‘s citizen science data is now informing Wellbeing Indicators, in particular the ‘Waste flows in waterways and coastal marine environments’ indicator which demonstrates the amount of waste discharged into waterways and coastal areas around NZ each year.

‘Citizen science’ refers to the public participation in scientific research — it is a non-traditional form of data collection and is already contributing significantly to the scientific community. Thanks to the citizen scientists involved in the Litter Intelligence programme, government agencies, businesses and communities now have better insights into the health of our coasts and therefore, the power to find appropriate solutions.

Marilyn Scott’s Litter Intelligence citizen science group, monitoring the Waitangi Estuary in Hawke’s Bay.

“This announcement shows the true power of citizen science. We’re incredibly proud that members of our community can contribute towards environmental reporting that informs better decision making,” says Howitt. “Thanks to the continued dedication and hard work of our citizen scientists, we’re now able to contribute to the wellbeing indicators of our own home, right here in Aotearoa”.  

Long-time citizen scientist Marilyn Scott says people often feel disempowered, when it comes to the health of the environment, but since taking the role of a citizen scientist she feels like she’s part of the solution. 

“Our citizen science group started in June 2019 and is made up of 20 dedicated individuals who look after the Waitangi Estuary in Hawke’s Bay. The beauty of this work is in seeing the efforts coming together throughout Aotearoa and the direct action that comes from it. Sure, you see disappointing things of course, like the countless pieces of single-use plastic, or the horrid oesophagus clips on our coasts but the great thing about this involvement, is the fact that there is a further layer here which is ironclad data that can be used for government reporting and policy change. It’s great to think we’re helping restore Papatūānuku and therefore part of a bigger picture, and I for one, am delighted to be involved”.

“We’re proud to celebrate Plastic Free July by acknowledging the mahi of our fellow Kiwis,” adds Howitt. Their dedication, commitment, and volunteering of their time – over 16,000 hours to date – is an epic contribution to the health of our moana”. 

Visit for more information 

To learn more about Litter Intelligence please visit:

Top 10 Plastic Pollution Offenders

Plus their plastic-free counterparts


To give you some motivation for Plastic Free July and beyond, we’re sharing the top 10 plastic items found in our Litter Intelligence beach surveys, and some tips on how to avoid them!

As of 29 June 2022, plastic and foamed plastic together represent 75% of the total litter we find in our beach survey areas across Aotearoa, by number of items (not weight or mass). 

At any time on the Litter Intelligence Insights page, you can see the most commonly found litter in our beach survey areas.

This data is thanks to the Litter Intelligence citizen scientists across Aotearoa, who visit their local beach every three months and conduct a litter survey. The data they collect give us awesome insights into the state of our coastlines and what we can do about it. Ngā mihi nui to these fantastic volunteers!

Photo: Ministry for the Environment. Citizen scientists conducting a survey on Kāpiti Island.
MFE Beach cleanup project on Kāpiti Island with Sustainable Coastlines crew & Department of Conservation.
24/09/2021 Photographer Jeff McEwan / Capture Studios
SCL_Auckland Council Staff Day@Taumanu Reserve_21.04.21_139

#10: Lollipop sticks

4,590 items, 1.3% of all items

If you’re ever surprised by your child coming home from school and telling you not to buy lollipops anymore, they’ve probably had a presentation from us. The ridiculous number of lollipop sticks on our coastline and the impact they have on marine life is often one of our key takeaways.

Use instead: this one’s easy. Most lollies don’t have sticks! Even better, get some without plastic wrap from your local bulk store.

Top 10 carousels

#9: Food containers

5,910 items, 1.7% of all items

Plastic takeaway boxes, yoghurt pottles, soy sauce fish — sadly, a lot of the items we use day-to-day for convenience end up on our coastlines. 

Use instead: we recommend small steps with this one as it can be hard to cut everything out at once. Our number-one tip is to get some good-quality reusable food containers (keep using your plastic ones if that’s what you’ve got), and take them with you to work to fill up at your favourite lunch spot, or your takeaway shop for dinner.

SCL_Auckland Council Staff Day@Taumanu Reserve_21.04.21_224 copy

#8: Unidentifiable foamed plastic fragments

6,627 items, 1.9% of all items

This category is made up of little bits of foamed plastic that are so fragmented we can’t identify them! Let’s be honest, some of this stuff, like polystyrene, just breaks up in your hands. The smaller it is, the harder it is to get out of our ecosystems, which is why it’s super important to not let it get there in the first place.

Use instead: We’re stoked that polystyrene takeaway containers are being banned from late 2022! But foamed plastic is also often used to keep fragile things safe during shipping, like the foam netting used to protect wine bottles or mangoes, and those awful packing beans! If you’re getting something shipped, ask the supplier if they have a biodegradable alternative, like good old brown paper — the more people that ask, the more likely they will listen!

#7: Bottle caps & lids

13,898 items, 4% of all items

We’ve all spotted these in the sand, so this one should come as no surprise. As you’ll see when we get to #1, plastic bottle caps are made even more dangerous to wildlife when they break up into smaller, more consumable, pieces, which they do easily — so grab ’em while they’re big.

Use instead: your reusable drink bottle! If you want something fizzy to go with your fish and chips, opt for aluminium cans or make your own fizz at home. Milk-bottle tops are frequent offenders in this category, so find out whether you have a local spot that will refill glass bottles.

Cigarette butts SCL_Auckland Council Staff Day@Taumanu Reserve_21.04.21_99

#6: Cigarettes, butts & filters

14,590 items, 4.2% of all items

We’re pretty sure that a lot of people we see flicking their cigarettes out the window don’t realise that CIGARETTE BUTTS AND FILTERS DO NOT BREAK DOWN! Sorry for the shouty caps, but this one we really want to shout from the rooftops. They also leach gross toxins into the water and can be consumed by marine life. Ugh. 

Use instead: well, we’d love to suggest you stop smoking because we care about you. But if you must, an easy solution is carrying an empty mint tin as a portable ashtray. Note that vaping is no better — we find a lot of those refill cartridges on the beach too.


#5: Unidentifiable soft plastic fragments

15,131 items, 4.4% of all items

You know what we’re not finding many of anymore? Plastic bags, thanks to 2019’s ban! But we’re still finding bits of them, just more and more broken up. Any plastic that spends time out in the elements will break up and become unidentifiable (and easier for marine life to swallow). These ‘unidentifiable’ pieces were originally items such as food wrappers, pallet wrap — any soft-plastic packaging, really.

Use instead: this is a big category, so there’s no single answer. But we recommend you pay a visit to your local bulk shop and see which items you would happily swap the packaged version for and build it from there. Also, if you’re at the beach and have plastic packaging to dispose of, consider taking them home rather than use the beach bins — soft plastics are expert escape artists, especially when caught by a sea breeze.

Rope Rangitoto 27:03:2021 Irena Cima0 copy_resized

#4: Rope (plastic)

16,260 items, 4.7% of all items

The number-four most commonly found plastic on our beaches is plastic rope! You’ve probably seen the havoc rope can cause to marine life minding their own business, with the devastating result often found washed up on our beaches. Rope is all over our coastline (by weight it ranks #1) and there’s even more floating in the moana.

Use instead: rope made of natural fibre (e.g. hemp) has been used for ocean expeditions for centuries, so there’s no reason we can’t make this switch! It’s still important to be responsible with its disposal when it reaches the end of its life. If you don’t use rope in your day-to-day, you can help out by removing it from the beach when you see it, and if there’s too much, tell your local council.

Polystyrene takeaway

#3: Polystyrene insulation or packaging

16,409 items, 4.8% of all items

Taking out the bronze medal for most commonly found plastics on the beach is the crowd-favourite: polystyrene! Ever taken a sip out of a polystyrene cup and accidently taken a bite out of it? No…? Anyway, you know how easily this rubbish breaks up, making infiltrating our ecosystems light work.

Use instead: Happily, polystyrene takeaway containers are being phased out in late 2022 as part of the government’s plan to tackle problem plastics. So fingers crossed we see this knocked off the podium soon! If your local takeaway still uses these containers, take along your own container and kindly remind them of the upcoming ban.

5IVHQ 2019

#2: Food wrappers

24,127 items, 7% of all items

Imagine you’re a honu, a sea turtle, cruising the ocean, looking for a feed. An amorphous object catches your eye. A jellyfish — awesome. You chow it down, but it’s tasteless, hard to swallow, and who knows what it’s going to do to you. It’s a food wrapper, and these make up some of those ‘soft plastic fragments’ we saw at #5.

Use instead: Get some reusable produce bags, visit your local bulk store with some refillable containers, and maybe let your fav brands know you’re keen to move away from plastic. Getting in the habit of prepping your own snacks at home is also a great way to save plastic (and money).

Plastic waste breaks down into tiny pieces which are consumed by marine animals

#1: Unidentifiable hard plastic fragments

92,043 items, 26.9% of all items

*Note that we only count items over 5mm in size, so this does not include microplastics.

Taking out the top spot is the hard-to-say (and even harder to digest) unidentifiable hard plastic fragments! You’ve probably seen the news articles on toroa (albatross) parents regurgitating plastic fragments for their chicks. The longer a piece of plastic is out in the elements, the more fragile it becomes, and when it breaks up, it’s much more likely to be swallowed by our beautiful marine life.

Use instead: unidentifiable hard plastic fragments are made up of lots of different types of products, so there’s no single answer. But the ubiquity of these fragments is a great motivation to reconsider any plastic you use in your daily life. Getting plastic out of our lives (and our moana) is a journey for all of us, so don’t be too hard on yourself if there’s something you can’t give up just yet. Start small and build from there!

All the best for your plastic-free journey! For more Plastic Free July inspiration and tips, check out our resources below, or explore more litter data at the Litter Intelligence Insights page.

This month, June 2022, the team at Sustainable Coastlines is thrilled to welcome Jennifer McKnight, our first international volunteer after a two-year hiatus due to border closures.

To celebrate the re-establishment of our IVHQ (International Volunteer Headquarters) programme, and to recognise National Volunteer Week, 19–25 June, we chatted to Jennifer about her motivations for supporting Sustainable Coastlines, what she loves about Aotearoa, and her recommendations for Plastic Free July.

Jennifer at the Sustainable Coastlines education and events space, The Flagship in Tāmaki Makaurau’s Wynyard Quarter.

Hey Jennifer, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

“I’m from California, where I work as a tax accountant. I love travelling and spending time outdoors or at concerts when I can. In the past year I’ve been spending a lot of time at the climbing gym and taking kickboxing classes. A lot of my work time is spent sitting down, so any time off the clock I like to get out and move!”


What made you want to come to New Zealand?

“This is actually my third time here! I first came to New Zealand in 2015 when I was in my early twenties. That first trip really helped me to step out of my comfort zone — I got into all the outdoor activities on offer: rafting, ziplining, rappelling down waterfalls. I loved spending time in nature, and that carried through to my other travels and my life back home. But because this was where it all began, I keep wanting to return to New Zealand — the environment really resonated with me. It gave so much to me.”


What about the environment here resonates with you so much?

“It’s beautiful. It reminds me a bit of home, where there’s a bit of everything relatively close. I especially love the waterfalls and forests. I love it any time you can respectfully treat nature as your playground, and that’s very easy to do here.”


Where’s your favourite place in New Zealand?

“That’s so hard to say, it’s all so nice. On my first trip here, I went rafting in Rotorua down the Kaituna River. It was my first time white-water rafting; it was so fun, and the scenery was so beautiful. It sticks in my mind as one of the most pure experiences in my life. So yeah, I’d have to say the Kaituna River.”

A rapid on the Kaituna River.

What made you want to volunteer with Sustainable Coastlines?

“Because I’ve gotten so much from New Zealand’s natural environment, I really wanted to give back to it. I wanted to put some love back into a place that has already given me so much love, and the work SC is doing really falls in line with that.”


What kind of impact do you see Sustainable Coastlines as having?

“The other day we were laying out plants for a tree-planting day run alongside Auckland Council. There were 10,000 of them, which looked like a lot, and it was hard to imagine them all planted. We were at the planting the next day, and with all the volunteers, the trees were planted, no problem. So Sustainable Coastlines is obviously really good at bringing people together and making a collaborative impact. It’s really great for people to have the chance to work together as a community with a shared goal like that.”

“I know I’ll be back in New Zealand one day, and I’m looking forward to seeing those trees we planted all grown up. Which is also something that’s probably really satisfying for the locals.”

Te Hira Mayall-Nahi, Sustainable Coastlines’ IVHQ Coordinator, and Jennifer McKnight, at Puhinui Reserve in June 2022.

Plastic Free July is coming up — have you got any tips to share?

“It can be super hard to travel and be sustainable at the same time. You don’t have the convenience of your own dishes etcetera when you’re on a plane or other transport. The first thing I’d recommend to people is the simplest one: get a reusable drink bottle. It doesn’t take much work and can make a huge impact.

I would also say, vote with your dollars. Not everyone has the money to make sustainable choices, but if you have the ability to do it, the market will respond. It’s kind of like the vegan and vegetarian options that are in our supermarkets now compared with 10 or 11 years ago. Because companies saw the demand, we now have a great range. I think the same thing is happening with genuinely eco-friendly alternatives. If we vote with our dollars and tell the companies what we want, we’re making a difference.”

Concerns for the state of the Hauraki Gulf unite philanthropic trusts to invest in long-term solutions in the Waihou-Piako catchment.

Take a look at the Firth of Thames on a map. At its bottom right you’ll see it has a little tail, the Waihou River, and next to it (you might have to zoom in), is the Piako River. These two rivers make up the Waihou–Piako catchment — a vast landscape of 3,743 square kilometres that drains into the Hauraki Gulf. Sustainable Coastlines is one of many groups spread across the region working hard to improve the health of these awa.

When you cross the Kopu Bridge (that’s right, the one you have to hold your breath over on family holidays), and look down, the water is coffee-brown. It doesn’t start out that way. In fact, the Waihou starts life as some of the clearest water in the world — you can visit the famous Blue Spring in Putaruru, close to the river’s source in the Mamaku Ranges. The Piako River begins near here, draining the ranges west of Matamata.

Where the Piako and Waihou Rivers meet the Firth of Thames (top right)

By the time these two awa wend their way through the Waikato countryside, they are loaded with sediment and pollutants picked up from the pasture used predominantly for intensive dairy farming. Each year, these rivers deposit more than 185,000 tonnes of sediment into the Hauraki Gulf, a precious body of water that many groups are desperately trying to save.

Sediment is just one of the threats to the gulf, but it’s a significant one. It smothers the seafloor for many miles from the mouths of these awa, altering the sea for humans and marine creatures alike, and stifling intensive efforts to restore the mussel beds that once carpeted the Firth of Thames. According to the Hauraki Gulf Forum’s State of our Gulf 2020 Report, excess sediment is the third highest threat to Aotearoa’s marine habitats.

The coffee-brown Waitakaruru Stream, a major tributary of the Piako River

For Sustainable Coastlines — and many of the existing groups working in this area — the key to improving the quality of this water is restoring the riparian ecosystems in the catchment. This requires a large-scale, multi-generational approach that deeply engages the community, which is the basis of the charity’s Love Your Water programme.

Now, thanks to the support and vision of The Tindall Foundation and Simplicity Foundation, along with Trust Waikato, Sustainable Coastlines can expand its efforts in the region, helping communities to plant and care for native flora in riparian zones, as well as learn to monitor and report on the health of the ecosystems in their local area.

“Simplicity Foundation is really happy to be able to help support the next phase of this important planting programme, working to help improve the health of our precious Hauraki Gulf,” says Simplicity Foundation manager Rebecca Roberts.

“Simplicity members have identified improving the environment as one of our key giving pillars and we’re glad we can help Sustainable Coastlines drive the long-term future impact of this collaborative project.”

Local volunteers at a Sustainable Coastlines tree-planting day, Morrinsville, 2021

Sustainable Coastlines programme coordinator and Waihou–Piako catchment manager Natalia Groom says that philanthropic funds will be a big boost to efforts in the region.

 “It’s awesome that these funders have recognised what we’ve achieved so far with Love Your Water,” she says. “Their contributions will pay for things like equipment, seedlings, and staff costs, meaning we can run even more community planting days, as well as maintenance days, which will give the seedlings the best chance of thriving.” 

Last year, seed funding from Little Kowhai Charitable Trust managed by Perpetual Guardian combined with funds for plants and equipment from Lion Foundation gave us a solid start despite interruptions from Covid.  

The coffee-brown colour of the waters of the Waihou and Piako Rivers is not inevitable, and the community groups such as the Piako Catchment Forum already working on riparian planting in the region certainly don’t see it that way.

“The better we can support local communities to protect the awa they love, the quicker we can achieve the large-scale restoration work that is so dearly needed,” says Natalia. “Having support from these funds takes us a long way there.”

Media release: 22 May 2022

An increasing number of New Zealanders are worried about biodiversity loss according to the 2022 Better Futures Report. 40% reported they were concerned, up from 29% the previous year, reflecting the warnings of the scientific community which states that Aotearoa is losing biodiversity at an alarming rate. Addressing these concerns is award-winning charity Sustainable Coastlines, which alongside ANZ, is encouraging all whānau and friends across Aotearoa to take action this World Biodiversity Day (22 May) by signing up to volunteer for the ANZ Love Your Water Planting Series this winter.

World Biodiversity Day was created by the United Nations to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues, which is one of the key aims of the ANZ Love Your Water Planting Series. The series will span two sites in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, and one each in the Waikato, Te Ūpoko o Te Ika a Māui Wellington, and Waitaha Canterbury regions. These riparian planting projects provide Kiwis of all ages the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and lend a helping hand to restore their local waterway and enhance our native biodiversity.

“People protect what they love, which is why our purpose at Sustainable Coastlines is to connect people to nature and inspire change”, says Love Your Water Programme Manager, Dan Downing.

“Through our Love Your Water programme, we support communities in five targeted regions through Aotearoa, to restore and look after their local waterway. Riparian planting is critical work — 94% of rivers in urban areas and 82% of rivers in pastoral farming areas are not suitable for swimming in. Beyond these critical numbers, we know that the Ministry for the Environment has already declared our indigenous biodiversity to be in crisis and with the Ministry of Conservation stating that almost 30% of the country’s terrestrial species are threatened or in risk of extinction — the time to act is now”.

“For us, it’s incredibly encouraging to see that the health of our environment is currently top of mind for Kiwis. We invite everyone to take action this World Biodiversity Day by registering to attend our planting days over winter”.

Matariki Tree-Planting Day, Te Atatū, 2021

The Better Futures Report 2022 also states that concern over the protection of New Zealand native animals and plants is at 53%, up from 46% the previous year.

“The interest to do more is clearly there”, adds Downing, “and the opportunity to do something about it is made possible with the ANZ Love Your Water Planting Series”.

Now in its third year, Sustainable Coastlines and ANZ’s partnership has so far helped put 129,824 trees in the ground and brought together thousands of volunteers throughout Aotearoa.

“We’re delighted to bring together the ANZ Love Your Water Planting Series for another season”, says Antonia Watson, ANZ New Zealand CEO.

“Our relationship with Sustainable Coastlines helps drive greater outcomes for biodiversity in our communities, and it’s a perfect chance for our people to get outside and connect with te taiao (the natural environment) and each other.”

“We’ve got a very special environment to protect here in Aotearoa, and it desperately needs our help — which is why we hope to see a record number of volunteers helping out this season”, adds Downing.

“Please register to attend our tree plantings this World Biodiversity Day, and join us in this purposeful mahi to help restore Papaptūānuku”.

These tree planting events are family friendly and free for all to attend. All necessary equipment and instructions will be provided by Sustainable Coastlines, including health and safety and complimentary drinks and kai for all volunteers.

In January 2022, Emma Dent announced her decision to step down as chairperson for Sustainable Coastlines. This April, Emma passes her position to the extremely capable Samantha Walmsley-Bartlett. See below for CEO Josh Borthwick’s full announcement.

Emma Dent

Change of chairperson announcement

28 Jan 2022


Today I would like to relay the news that Emma Dent is stepping down as chairperson of the Sustainable Coastlines Charitable Trust. After four years as our chair through an unprecedented period of growth, it’s timely for Emma to take stock and review what’s next. Emma will be focusing her time on her role as director of development with The Nature Conservancy, Aotearoa New Zealand.

I’d personally like to thank Emma for inducting me into the organisation as CEO and supporting me and my team through Covid-19. Emma is incredibly smart, composed and compassionate. I’m going to miss her terribly and the SC crew can’t thank her enough for her dedication, commitment and support of our charity. Emma will always have a special place in the SC whānau and we know she won’t be a stranger.

Every change creates opportunity and I’m excited to announce Samantha Walmsley-Bartlett as our new Chair, effective April 2022. Sam’s been a board member for three years and is also one of our original Litter Intelligence volunteer leaders. As a trained botanist Samantha has dedicated her career to helping businesses and organisations care for our environment. As environmental and sustainability manager, Samantha actively led, implemented and expanded produce company T&G’s sustainability framework. Now at Circularity, she gets to consult to a wide variety of organisations to design, develop and measure best practice environmental strategies to design out waste, keep materials in flow and regenerate living systems.

Samantha Walmsley-Bartlett

Sam will be supported by a formal vice-chair position, filled by Grant Biggar, who having spent several decades building investment and fin-tech businesses around the world, is now based in New Zealand and is focused on improving New Zealand for future generations while also remaining active in early stage private company investing. Grant has a passion for watersports and the coastline and currently serves as chair of the finance, audit and remuneration committee for Sustainable Coastlines. 

Other trustees, Craig Fisher and Abbie Reynolds remain in their positions and provide an incredible wealth of experience across governance, finance, conservation, climate change and sustainability. We are also actively recruiting for three new board trustees with backgrounds in charitable revenue development, product technology development and / or  a deep understanding of te ao Māori, mātauranga Māori and deep connections with iwi / hapū and Pasifika communities. 


Ngā mihi, 

 Josh Borthwick
Sustainable Coastlines


Josh Borthwick
021 823 380

 Emma Dent
027 706 5927

 Samantha Walmsley-Bartlett
021 918 053

What does a container return scheme mean for litter in the environment?

On 13 March, the government announced its proposal to overhaul current recycling and waste management. It proposes to standardise recycling across Aotearoa, food waste collections for business, and a container return scheme.

Sustainable Coastlines CEO, Josh Borthwick, thinks that the container return scheme is a positive move, but that more can be done to reduce litter in our environment.

“The container deposit scheme has been a long time coming! It’s a huge win in incentivising people to keep plastic, aluminium and glass out of our landfills, and ultimately our moana. It gets us another step closer to a circular economy, where products are produced and reproduced with a view to managing their entire lifecycle, rather than the waste-based economy we find ourselves in today. 

So this is a step in the right direction, but at Sustainable Coastlines we still see recycling as a last resort — we envision a future where single-use is a thing of the past.”

What kind of impact might the government’s proposed container deposit scheme have on the litter that we find on our clean-ups? We crunched some numbers on the Litter Intelligence insights page, and found that 7.68% of litter items our volunteers find on beach surveys relate to the items proposed in the deposit scheme. That percentage comprises more than 20,000 pieces of single-use rubbish related to drinks.

Will a container deposit scheme make this number smaller?

If people are incentivised to put this litter in the right place, we’re hopeful that much less of it will end up in the environment. However, much more needs to be done to move away from single-use items as much as possible, especially plastics. Aotearoa has great opportunities to adopt reuse schemes on a large scale.

Consultations on the container return scheme and the other proposed waste measures are open until 8 May. You can let the Ministry for the Environment know your thoughts at this link.

The stats

Beverage-related items found on Litter Intelligence beach surveys. Learn more at

Note: this article was updated on 11 May 2022 to include ‘Glass bottles and jars’ in the statistics. New statistics are correct as of that date.

Plastic bottle caps & lids — 4.05 %
Glass bottles & jars — 1.05 %
Plastic bottles <= 2 L — 0.67 %
Plastic bottle neck rings — 0.56 %
Plastic bottle seals & tabs — 0.51 %
Aluminium drink cans — 0.46 %
Metal Bottle caps, lids & pull tabs — 0.38 %
= 7.68%

Celebrate Kiwi kids taking action to protect our moana this Seaweek

[Press release] Kiwi charity Sustainable Coastlines is raising funds to educate children on ocean restoration.


Seaweek is Aotearoa’s annual national week devoted to the ocean, and this year, it’s encouraging Kiwis to ‘connect to the sea’. Heeding the call is environmental charity Sustainable Coastlines, which is raising funds for its school education programme, to continue inspiring tamariki to restore the mauri of our moana. Launching its Double Your Donation campaign, Sustainable Coastlines is encouraging donations during Seaweek, as any donations made between 5 and 13 March will be doubled by supporting businesses. 

Sustainable Coastlines’ Litter Intelligence Programme Manager Shawn Elise Tierney urges ocean lovers to take up the appeal, as the positive impact on our tamariki and our moana will be doubled.

“We hold a great responsibility to educate future generations and inspire them to look after Papatūānuku”, says Shawn Elise, “which is why we developed our Litter Intelligence Education Programme (LIEP) to inspire tamariki to look after their local coastline and inform better decisions for a world without litter.”

One of the most rewarding parts of our education programme, according to Shawn Elise, is hearing the success stories from the field, about Kiwi kids taking action, being innovative and implementing the skills the charity has taught them to make a positive difference. Waiheke’s Te Huruhi School, for example, switched problematic ‘compostable’ single-use cups for reusable ones, after discovering that the ‘eco’ cups used at their school were actually PLA (polylactic acid) lined.

“We need to do more than clean up rubbish on the beach: we need to educate future generations to be part of the solution that prevents rubbish from leaking into the environment in the first place”. LIEP is the education programme that does just that — giving teachers and students skills and capabilities in data collection, environmental monitoring, leadership, problem-solving, citizen science, community engagement, influencing techniques, presentation delivery, storytelling and more.

According to the latest World Ocean Assessment report, the ocean is our biggest ally in mitigating climate change, and understanding our impact on it is the first step to protecting it. Litter Intelligence was created to collect critical data on the impact of litter on our coastlines. “We cannot improve what we do not measure, which is why our Litter Intelligence education programme and associated data is so important. We know that data empowers action and we want to empower our rangatahi with data to take action for the places that are important to them”, says Shawn Elise.

Sustainable Coastlines intern, Nakita, gives a ‘Love Your Coast’ presentation to children from Hobsonville Primary in 2021.

“Thanks to the generous matching donors for our Double Your Donation campaign, we’re well on our way to meet our $20,000 goal, to help fund our educational work”. 

The companies involved are APL, Hirepool, Pit Stop, Hyundai NZ and WaterSmart. They are all New Zealand–owned businesses who understand the urgency in looking after our environment by educating future generations and are putting their money behind this epic cause. 

The funds raised through the Double Your Donation campaign will allow the charity to fund LIEP and continue inspiring groups like Te Iti Kahurangi Kāhui Ako, a community of 10 schools, with varying age groups, in Onehunga that has committed to looking after the local coastline that unites the students along the Manukau Harbour. Or Opoutere School, where LIEP inspired two students to hone in on their shared hobby, skateboarding. The students are now moulding skateboard deck rails out of recycled plastics, and even looking to market their product in the future. And Maraetai Beach School, whose entire environmental group wrote and produced a rap to highlight the pollution problem in Aotearoa. 

“These success stories are truly inspiring, and with your help we can continue motivating our tamariki to take action. So please, help us out this Seaweek — $5, $50, $500, whatever you want to donate helps us to fulfill our mission to connect people to nature and inspire change”, adds Shawn Elise. 

“You can double your donation by donating during Seaweek, and we can double our impact for our moana!”