Litter is a major risk to 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. Developed and 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 enable the ongoing collection of this litter data, 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 programme 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 world.
We are looking for participants in New Zealand and around the world who want to set up the Litter Intelligence programme in their own region and/or country. Ideally, you'll have a group of 3-12 people available to commit to four surveys per year at a beach close to you and your heart. Click the button below to get involved. For those who have received our official training, head to app.litterintelligence.org to input your data.
We require further funding and collaboration from corporate partners and generous donors to ensure the programme’s ongoing success. There are numerous benefits for an organisation to be part of this critical work, and your financial contribution will enable us to provide further training opportunities and establish additional survey areas.
You’ll have the opportunity to engage your staff and/or community to do your own litter data collection with the support of the Sustainable Coastlines team, and use the data for sustainability reports and communications. We simply ask that you and your team commit to being trained in the methodology (it’s super fun and easy), and to conduct your own litter survey every three months, for a minimum of three years. For more info please contact Steph Vercoe email@example.com
Charity Sustainable Coastlines received funding in May 2018 from the Ministry for the Environment’s Waste Minimisation Fund to establish, develop and rollout Litter Intelligence as a nationwide programme. Since establishment, Microsoft, NIWA, Auckland Council and Stormwater 360 have provided additional funding to further develop the technology platform 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.
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, please enter your data here.
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.
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.
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 (NZ) and we will be in touch to arrange a date.
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.
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.
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.
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 set-up the Litter Intelligence programme in your country, please fill out this Expression of Interest (Global) form so that we can be in touch.
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:
A range of Quality Assurance measures and Quality Controls have been established to ensure that the Litter Intelligence Citizen Science programme consistently produces high-quality, credible and scientifically rigorous data. Download and view these in the document below.
Our Quality Assurance measures are proactive, and include the systems and processes we have built into the Litter Intelligence programme, training and technology that aim to prevent and minimise errors, and ensure data quality.
Our Quality Controls are reactive and corrective processes that we have put in place to identify and resolve any data entry/user issues or errors, to ensure the data that appears on the Litter Intelligence platform is robust and can be trusted.
These measures are important for providing ongoing confidence in data collected through this programme, and more broadly to instill confidence and trust in Citizen Science data for the widest audience possible including environmental reporting.
As part of our commitment to Quality Assurance and Quality Control, we established a Data Governance Group that meets quarterly to discuss any changes required to improve the quality of the data that are collected. To ensure transparency around decisions made to modify the methodology and any supporting documents, we publish the minutes from all Data Governance Group meetings here.
11 Jun, 2021 • Newshub • NZ's plastic problem: The shocking amount of plastic washing up on Fiordland's coastline
14 Mar, 2021 • Stuff • Volunteers pick up litter at Caroline Bay as part of Seaweek
8 Mar, 2021 • NZ Herald • Plastic clips from freezing works washing up on beaches from East Cape to Southland
24 Jan, 2021 • Otago Times • Teachers brave weather at workshop
25 Nov, 2020 • Sustainable Business Network • Sustainable Coastlines takes out Tech for Good Award.
2 July, 2020 • Sustainability Science (2020) Fraisl, D., Campbell, J., See, L. et al. • Mapping citizen science contributions to the UN sustainable development goals.
27 Apr, 2020 • Te Iti Kahurangi Kāhui Ako • Being kaitiaki of our local beaches
5 Nov, 2019 • Office of the Prime Minister's Chief Science Advisor • Litter Intelligence
18 Oct, 2019 • Radio New Zealand • Volunteers collect vital information
17 Oct, 2019 • Stuff • Climate change, pollution threaten NZ's marine environment
17 Oct, 2019 • Newsroom • New report details threats to marine environment
17 Oct, 2019 • One News • NZ's 'pristine beaches and clean sparkling water' rep at risk without action, report finds
10 Oct, 2019 • Whanganui Chronicle • Whanganui citizen scientist group adds beach information to national project
3 Oct, 2019 • Stats NZ • Tracking beach litter thanks to citizen scientists
17 Sept, 2019 • Newshub • NZ's litter problem: Citizen scientists hope rubbish data will provide wake-up call for Kiwis
1 Sept, 2019 • Samoa Observer • New Zealand group wants Samoans to use smart phones to tackle rubbish
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