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Canterbury's litter levels are on the rise

Lachlan Rennie
Child in a pile of rubbish
Child in a pile of rubbish  Keep New Zealand Beautiful

Keep New Zealand Beautiful's National Litter Audit has revealed Canterbury's litter has over doubled since 2019.

Working alongside Stats NZ, Department of Conservation and Ministry of Environment this is the second time the nationwide audit has been conducted.

The report found that Canterbury has over double the amount of litter per square metre since 2019.

CEO of KNZB Heather Saunderson found the results surprising and alarming.

“Despite the efforts of tidy Kiwis nationwide, the audit results really speak to the fiction of New Zealand's clean green image and illustrate the need for government, industry and Kiwis to take immediate action.”

Backed with a $1.3 million contract from the Government, Keep New Zealand Beautiful has begun several research streams into Aotearoa’s waste and are planning a behaviour change campaign to be launched later this year.

Saunderson believes no amount of funding will fix the problem until people change their behaviour. 

“No single agency has the resources to stop this littering entirely, it’s a collective effort - everyone has to do the right thing.”


CCCRiverCleanUpNov2022 9025
Kate Gislason working with Child volunteers for Avon River Clean up Supplied by Kate Gislason

Without Waste founder Kate Gislason is taking action to educate and help clean up Christchurch streets and waterways.

She thinks the increase of litter shown from the audit is reflective of people's attitudes towards litter.

 “In general, I think people are just starting to care less and thinking their litter won’t make a difference.”

Gislason wants to see communities take responsibility for their neighbourhoods to keep Christchurch litter-free using items such as communal ‘Witches Hat’ filters over storm drains to keep rubbish out of the waterways.

“I think if everyone did that the amount of litter in the river would be significantly reduced.”

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Kate Gislason working with Child volunteers for Avon River Clean up Supplied by Kate Gislason

Gislason has been a part of the Ōtākaro-Avon River clean up, where large amounts of people's litter ends up after getting caught in storm drains.

Working with Healthy Rivers NZ founder Daryl Poulson said almost two tonnes of rubbish had been removed from the murky depths since late last year.

She has been using the project as an education tool and says the kids love to get involved.

“You’d be surprised how many kids are really interested and want to help.”

Josh Borthwick
Sustainable Coastlines CEO Josh Borthwick Supplied by Sustainable Coastlines

Sustainable Coastlines New Zealand have also been tackling the litter problem head on in Canterbury hosting many coastal clean-ups.

The Heathcote Estuary was the site of New Zealand's most recent coastal clean-up in Canterbury, during which they collected more than 600kg of trash.

The audit's findings did not surprise CEO Josh Borthwick. 

“As New Zealand’s consumption of goods keeps rising, so will our litter and waste.”

Borthwick is disappointed with recent government budget cuts to focus on the cost of living such as the container return scheme which could have seen people being paid around 20 cents for every container recycled. 

“With decisions like this the Government is quite literally kicking the can further down the road."

Borthwick wants people to stop using basic single-use items like coffee cups, plastic cutlery, and plastic straws and invest in the future instead. 

“People need to be buying quality over quantity, to save their wallets and the environment.”


To see the full Keep New Zealand Beautiful National Litter Audit click here.