Sustainable Coastlines announces new litter-reduction goal for Seaweek | Sustainable Coastlines

This week is Seaweek, Aotearoa’s celebration of the sea, and ocean charity Sustainable Coastlines is ramping up efforts to protect our ocean. Waste, plastic pollution in particular, contributes to climate change and threatens both marine habitats and human health. It is an issue that demands urgent, dedicated attention, which is why Sustainable Coastlines is renewing its focus on clean beaches with an ambitious goal: reduce coastal litter by 60% by 2030.

When Sustainable Coastlines was founded in 2009, beach clean-ups were a fairly fringe activity. But the problem was big — Sustainable Coastlines’ first clean-up on Aotea Great Barrier saw 2.8 tonnes of litter removed from the remote island, with another 3.1 tonnes pulled from the same location a year later.

For co-founders Sam Judd and Camden Howitt, finding the situation worse just a year on told them that while beach clean-ups themselves were important, the amount of litter on our beaches wasn’t going to change without behaviour and policy change. Since then, Sustainable Coastlines has inspired communities across Aotearoa to take action at their local beach through clean-ups and education, and helped to nurture growing public interest in the issue of beach litter.

A volunteer removes rope littered on Rangitoto during one of Sustainable Coastlines’ island clean-up days.

To measure national progress towards its 60% goal, Sustainable Coastlines will use data from its Litter Intelligence programme. According to Community Engagement Director, Ben Knight, litter data will also be key to informing policy and action to reduce the amount of rubbish that ends up on the beach.

“We’ve already made headway informing policy change through Litter Intelligence. Citizen science data helped to inform the nationwide phase-out of hard-to-recycle plastics that’s currently underway,” says Knight.

“Litter data collection is a great way to engage and empower communities to take action for their local beach, but it also contributes invaluable data that’s available for anyone to use.”

It’s in this intersection of community action and policy change that the charity can reduce the amount of rubbish found on our coastlines, says Sustainable Coastlines CEO, Josh Borthwick.

A Litter Intelligence citizen scientist displays some of her findings on Kāpiti Island. Credit: Ministry for the Environment.

Hon David Parker, Minister for the Environment has previously highlighted the Litter Intelligence data set as, “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.”

Sustainable Coastlines’ renewed focus on litter means that it will no longer be running its riparian planting programme, Love Your Water, which was established in 2014 and has seen volunteers plant more than 330,000 trees beside Aotearoa’s waterways.

“The decision to focus solely on litter was tough. Love Your Water — and all the people that got behind it, from volunteers to funders — has made a strong contribution to healthier waterways over the years. But the issue of waste is where Sustainable Coastlines can make the biggest difference to our environment,” says Borthwick.

Volunteers celebrate at the Hirepool Big Clean, a Sustainable Coastlines-run event during Seaweek.

According to Borthwick, this new strategic direction will allow the charity a greater focus on litter data to inspire insights and action around the problem, and we can expect more of the fun and inspiring beach clean-up days that Sustainable Coastlines is known for, including several events during Seaweek.

“We’re building the clearest picture of the litter problem on Aotearoa’s beaches, which ultimately impacts our oceans. You can’t change what you can’t measure and you can’t unsee the tohu, or signs, once they’re visible, so it’s our belief that the insight from this data will drive the change we need to forge a sustainable way forward.”

“We’re also having a pretty great time doing this, and would love to see some new faces at our events. So we extend the invitation to everyone to come along to our Seaweek events, have some fun looking after the places you love, and get cracking on progress on our new goal.”

Register for Sustainable Coastlines events at

Seaweek events
Sat 11 March, Hirepool Big Clean, Petone, WLG
Sat 11 March, Estuary Edge Clean-up, Te Ihutai/ Avon-Heathcote Estuary, CHCH
Sat 11 March, Seaweek Celebration, St Mary’s Bay, AKL
Sun 12 Mar, ‘The Ocean’ event, Sumner Centre, CHCH