Litter is a major risk to New Zealand’s people, culture, environment and economy, especially when it enters the marine environment. A 2018 World Bank report ranked New Zealanders as the tenth highest consumers of urban waste per capita in the world, with Kiwis producing over 3.6kg of waste per person every day.
This is a problem we can – and will – solve. Led by charity Sustainable Coastlines, Litter Intelligence collects data, provides insights and inspires action for a litter-free Aotearoa. Launched in May 2018, the programme is funded by the Ministry for the Environment’s Waste Minimisation Fund and works in close collaboration with Statistics New Zealand and the Department of Conservation. As New Zealand’s first national litter database, Litter Intelligence is helping build a better understanding of the problem.
To collect and input this litter data long-term, Sustainable Coastlines is engaging with communities around Aotearoa, providing the training, equipment and technology required for people to take part in the programme as ‘Citizen Scientists’. By working to a United Nations Environment Program / Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission methodology, data is collected at the highest standard of scientific rigour, allowing it to be used for national, regional and international reporting, including the relevant Sustainable Development Goals.
Our goal is to build a “fence at the top of the cliff” to help solve the litter problem long term, with a national litter education programme that inspires and enables educators and their students to take action while gaining curriculum credits.
To deliver this, we are training and supporting educators around Aotearoa. By combining evaluation of our education programme with on-the-ground litter data, we will measure the effectiveness of education and a range of other litter-reduction interventions, giving us a strong understanding of the best solutions.
All project findings are freely, openly and publicly available through our purpose-built Litter Intelligence digital platform, giving politicians and business leaders, students and scientists, writers and researchers the right information to take action for a litter-free Aotearoa.
Who is behind Litter Intelligence?
Litter Intelligence is a long-term programme led by registered New Zealand charity Sustainable Coastlines. Funded by the Ministry for the Environment through the Waste Minimisation Fund, Litter Intelligence also works in close collaboration with the Department of Conservation and Statistics New Zealand.
How do I submit my own litter data?
To ensure litter data is of the highest standard, all data on this website has been submitted by Citizen Scientists who have attended official training workshops. If you are a Citizen Scientist and have attended a workshop but have lost your login or the data submission link, please contact your Sustainable Coastlines representative. We are working on Ad Hoc functionality to allow more Citizen Scientists to add their litter data. Watch this space!
Why should I get involved in data collection?
We cannot improve what we do not measure. We need accurate litter data to understand the problem so we can optimise solutions, and inspire action for a litter-free Aotearoa. If you have a spare few hours every few months to monitor litter at your local beach and want to get involved, we’d love you to join us.
What are Citizen Scientists and how do I become one?
Getting involved is easy. Sustainable Coastlines offers training workshops for groups who would like to take part in ongoing litter data collection on their local coastline. Workshops are free for community groups, schools and iwi/hāpu groups, and we have a sponsorship package available for corporates who would like to get involved (email firstname.lastname@example.org). The workshop passes on skills in surveying, data collection, and Health & Safety that will allow you to play an important role in this important long-term programme.
How do I arrange a workshop in my community?
Firstly, check the workshop schedule on the Sustainable Coastlines website and email the appropriate contact for your area. If there are no upcoming workshops scheduled for your part of Aotearoa, please fill in an Expression of Interest and we will be in touch to arrange a date.
What do we need to bring to our training workshop?
All of the equipment required to run litter surveys is supplied at Sustainable Coastlines’ training workshops. You will need a smart phone with full battery, as well as sturdy, closed-toe shoes. Remember to bring sunsmart and weatherproof gear, too.
I’m not a scientist, can I still collect data?
Litter Intelligence involves Citizen Scientists in the collection of all litter data: the nature of Citizen Science is that it is accessible to everyone, not just scientists. The data collection methodology is simple, and with a small amount of training and the right equipment, almost anyone can do it! From school students through to retirees, this programme is appropriate to all ages.
I’m just one person, can I get involved?
We recommend three people as a minimum group size for long-term litter monitoring, to help share the knowledge (and the fun) between you. Get a group together through your networks: local community groups, family, school, friends, work, neighbourhood, sports / scouts / surf / boating clubs, etc.
Can I get involved in litter monitoring outside of New Zealand?
Litter Intelligence, the data collection methodology, and this technology can be applied anywhere in the world, and we would love to work with you to spread this work. If you are outside of New Zealand and want to get involved in litter monitoring, please fill out this Expression of Interest form so that we can be in touch.
What technology is behind this platform?
This website, and the database behind it, combines the use of Microsoft Azure cloud-based technology and Microsoft Power BI to provide intelligent digital storytelling and visualisation tools.
Trained Citizen Scientist 'Monitoring Groups' follow an official litter data collection methodology to ensure scientific rigour. This is a local adaptation of the United Nations Environment Program / Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Guidelines on Survey and Monitoring of Marine Litter. A summary of this methodology and further supporting documentation for Citizen Scientists can be found below:
6 Aug, 2019 • Gisborne Herald • Students take beach litter audit
29 July, 2019 • Microsoft Asia News Centre • (VIDEO) Sustainable Coastlines clean up New Zealand's beaches
26 July, 2019 • Microsoft New Zealand News Centre • Hack for Good! Bringing the Power of Employee Ingenuity and Technology to Non-profits
3 July, 2019 • Noted • Harnessing intelligent insights for cleaner coastlines
20 June, 2019 • Wellington Scoop • Showcase at Parliament shines a light on tech ingenuity
20 June, 2019 • Reseller News • Microsoft touts partner contributions to the NZ economy
28 May, 2019 • Gisborne Herald • Kaiti Beach litter in the spotlight
17 Apr, 2019 • Microsoft Asia News Centre • Artificial intelligence takes on ocean trash: Cleaning up the world’s beaches with the help of data
28 Mar, 2019 • Microsoft New Zealand News Centre • Kiwi environmental entrepreneurs win global grant
28 Mar, 2019 • Microsoft New Zealand News Centre • Strange Inspiration
22 Feb, 2019 • Ministry for the Environment • Sustainable Coastlines
4 Feb, 2019 • Noted • How these volunteers are harnessing technology to clean up NZ's coastlines
28 Jan, 2019 • The Project • Sustainable Coastlines using Citizen Science
29 Dec, 2018 • NZ Herald • How AI and tidy Kiwis are cleaning up our beaches
26 Oct, 2018 • Microsoft New Zealand News Centre • Cleaning up New Zealand’s coastlines one bot at a time
31 July, 2018 • Gisborne Herald • Getting the litter off our beaches
28 July, 2018 • Gisborne Herald • National litter project to be trialled during Sunday beach clean-up
7 June, 2018 • NZ Herald • Search for Citizen Scientists under way as Auckland beach clean-up yields 1715 pieces of litter in one hour
5 June, 2018 • Maori Television • Govt funds $2.7mil towards national litter database