Beach Monitoring.


Click the links below to download the methodology summary, data sheets and supporting documents.

General documents — for Beach, Freshwater and Stormwater

Beach-specific documents

Data entry

If you have attended an official 'Citizen Scientist' training workshop and have a login, click below to login and enter your data. If you have not attended training and do not have a login, you can still enter litter data. Just click on the button below and select 'Conduct an Ad Hoc survey' on the next screen.   


Methodology summary: Beach litter monitoring

This methodology is a localised adaptation of the United Nations Environment Program / Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission Guidelines on Survey and Monitoring of Marine Litter. Note: This is a methodology overview intended for Citizen Scientists. It does not replace official training, which covers important Health and Safety, logistics and planning considerations.


Choose Survey Area

Your Sustainable Coastlines rep will work with you to choose the best beach area for long-term monitoring. This is your Survey Area. 

During your training workshop, Sustainable Coastlines will also help you complete the necessary Health & Safety Plan for working safely at your site.

1. Set up Survey Area

  • Complete a site risk assessment before each ‘Litter Survey’. 
  • Start at the most apparent high tide mark. From start point, measure 10 metres either side of high tide*, and mark the area corners with your stakes. 
  • At the start point take 3 photos: (1) Out to sea (2) To back of beach (3) Along survey area. Also record your visual assessment grade (A-D) for the beach. 
  • Then, measure 100 metres along the beach to your end point, and set up stakes here.** This 100 by 20 metre space is your ‘Survey Area’. Citizen Scientists only need to remove litter from this area.

2. Complete Litter Survey

  • Where possible, complete your survey at low tide. Brief ‘Citizen Scientists’ on Health & Safety and how to do the survey. Provide clean-up/survey equipment. Survey should take 30 mins–2 hours.
  • Collect all visible litter from the beach by walking the entire survey area at least two times. While you can collect items under 5mm, these are not included in the audit.
  • Found fewer than 10 items? Extend the survey length to a total length of 300 metres and continue to survey (if safe to do so).
  • Leave behind all dangerous, large or immovable, and organic litter.

3. Complete Litter Audit

  • While you can do this on site, it can be easier in a sheltered location like a garage or surf club. Some items can be dangerous, so follow safety instructions. 
  • Sort all litter from the survey area into the categories provided. Use the sieve to separate any items under 5mm, so that they aren’t counted or weighed.
  • Group items from each category in one of your sorting bins. Record the item count and total weight (in grams) of the items in each category. Also record confidence level (High or Low) for weight.
  • Record your visual assessment grade (A-D) for plastic resin pellets.

Repeat Four Times A Year

  • To get long-term data and insights on our litter problem, surveys need to be repeated every 3 months. 
  • This is a great chance to get back together with your friends, whānau and/or colleagues to look after the places you love.
  • Make sure you follow steps 1 to 3 each time, and complete the survey in exactly the same place each time so we can compare data!

* If you cannot survey 10m above and 10m below high tide, record the width of beach that you can safely access and set-up your Survey Area accordingly.
** If your survey will take over two hours to complete, reduce length to 50 or 20 metres, whichever is the greatest you can achieve in that time limit.


Data quality

Quality Assurance and Quality Controls

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.


Health & Safety

Download the H&S document at the top of this page.

Litter Intelligence surveys: What to do

  • Wear gloves and closed-toe shoes. Gumboots are not recommended.
  • Use eye protection and take care of fingers when malleting in stakes.
  • Pick up rubbish within the survey area and put it into the rubbish sacks.
  • Take survey rubbish back to the audit location. Take care not to mix with general rubbish until the audit is complete.
  • Follow rules around hazardous objects detailed in the section below and also refer to your resource pack for specific instructions on handling sharps, asbestos, and sanitary items.

Safety with rubbish

  • Do not pick up asbestos. See photo provided and refer to Asbestos Awareness sheet.
  • Only adults are to deal with syringes / medical sharps. These are to be put into the sharps container provided in the health and safety backpack.
  • Only adults are to handle hazardous waste, such as fishing hooks and lures, broken glass, sanitary waste (nappies/diapers, condoms, tampons), industrial waste, car batteries etc. See Sanitary Items Handling Procedure in your resource pack for more details.
  • Do not pick up natural/biodegradable waste. Wood, if it has been modified or treated, is to be included in the audit. Be aware of splinters.
  • If any animals / marine creatures are found caught in rubbish, inform DOC as soon as possible on 0800 HOTDOC (0800 362 468). Please do not approach distressed/wild animals.
  • If an item of rubbish is too heavy/large to move, please make a note in the technology platform
( and contact your local council for proper removal.
  • Be careful when sieving rubbish. Wear safety glasses to avoid getting sand in your eyes.
  • Wash and sanitise your hands after clean-up and before eating.

Safety on the coast

  • Always undertake the survey as a team (minimum of two people).
  • Plan to conduct your survey at low tide — tides can rise quickly! For tide times, visit
  • Avoid setting up your survey area in potentially hazardous areas such as muddy, slippery, or extremely uneven terrain or below unstable cliffs.
  • Always look where you are walking when measuring out your survey area with the tape measure.
  • Do not run or attempt to pick up rubbish while moving.
  • Do not enter the water.
  • Do not touch pest-control units/traps.
  • Do not enter fenced or roped-off dune restoration areas and obey all official beach notices.
  • If you feel uncomfortable, don’t continue. Let your survey lead know.
  • If the site is not within cellphone reception, make sure you have another form of communication to call for help if required. This could be:
    • Leaving your intentions (GPS point of your destination and expected return time) with family/ close friends, your Sustainable Coastlines contact or your local police / DOC office.
    • Making sure at least two of your team can drive/walk to the nearest cell-reception area if necessary.
    • Having a satellite phone, two-way radio, or personal locator beacon (PLB). Talk to your Sustainable Coastlines contact who will ensure you have access to a PLB if required. Or visit

Emergency procedures

For injuries and incidents requiring first aid beyond your team’s capability, call 111 immediately. DO NOT MOVE ANYONE with possible spine/neck injury unless they are in further danger.

  • Do not compromise your safety to assist someone else.
  • VHF Channel 16 is monitored by the Coastguard for emergencies.
Use PLBs to contact emergency services when relocation is made too risky/impossible due to terrain or severity of injury. Do not hesitate to set it off if lives are in danger.