Whangārei students have turned trash into treasure through their efforts to protect Northland's waterways.

Half a cubic metre of litter was collected from the shorelines of Matakohe-Limestone Island as a part of Whitebait Connection's Drains to Harbour (DTH) trip.

The 39 children from schools across Whangārei turned the assortment of litter into art works as one of their projects, last Tuesday.

Read more: Up to 60 tonnes of illegally dumped rubbish found in Northland

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Bottle caps, lighters, straws and cigarette packets make up most of the plastic waste lining Northland shores.

The Whangarei District Council funded programme works with 10 different schools in Whangārei for a term to educate children on the importance of protecting our environment, particularly fresh waterways.

The inter-schools programme involves five sessions, including a classroom introduction to stormwater pollution sources and the equipment used to measure pollution levels.

Other sessions involve field trips to local streams, Whangarei Wastewater Treatment Plant and Dragonfly Springs.

DTH Co-ordinator Jordan MacDonald said the annual trip to Matakohe-Limestone Island was for children who are "especially engaged" with the programme and are actively working towards making a difference in the environment.

"It is an opportunity for them to see that they can make a difference, positive and negative," MacDonald said.

A student from Kamo Primary created a prototype out of cardboard of a drain net to prevent stormwater pollution.

The programme has been running since 2006 and is a "great tool to get students out into their environment", MacDonald said.

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"The field trip really engages students. I can't expect kids to care about something they haven't experienced yet."

The Matakohe-Limestone trip has been an annual event for the past five years since first being initiated in 2013.

This year's trip involved a walk around the island, up to the Pa site and a collection of rubbish which later became arts and crafts as the kids filled sea creature templates with the trash disposed on the shore.

MacDonald believes DTH is a positive programme for the community as it empowers children to "stand up and do the right thing".