A mountain of mostly recyclable rubbish collected from a short stretch of highway in the Bay of Islands has sparked renewed calls for a nationwide container deposit scheme.

Thirty volunteers spent just under two hours collecting litter from State Highway 11 between Paihia's Te Haumi Beach and Opua on Saturday.

They picked up 4 cubic metres of rubbish in just 5km, with organisers estimating that as much as 80 per cent of the waste could have been taken to a recycling station without charge. Recyclable materials included glass beer bottles, aluminium cans and plastic milk bottles.

Saturday's volunteers included Paihia's ''zero waste granny'' Jane Banfield, who said the amount of recyclable waste discarded along the region's roads was yet another argument for a return to bottle deposits.

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If consumers had to pay a refundable 20 cent deposit on all bottles and cans, either they wouldn't throw them out the windows in the first first place or they would be picked up by fundraising groups which could make good money by cleaning up roadsides, Banfield said.

Last month Associate Environment Minister Eugenie Sage said a discussion document on new regulations for packaging — including container deposits — was a ''few months away''.

A return to container deposits, common overseas but scrapped in New Zealand in the 1980s, has been strongly opposed by the beverage industry.

According to a 2015 report by environmental consultancy firm Envision NZ, New Zealanders throw away about 46,000 tonnes of recyclable drink containers per year — enough to fill 700 jumbo jets.

Banfield said one of the more revolting finds during Saturday's clean-up was about 100 plastic bags containing dog poo near Te Haumi Drive.

A dog owner had done the right thing by picking up their pet's excrement but had then thrown the bags into the bush. They would eventually be washed into the sea, putting birds and fish at risk.

''Every piece of plastic I pick up in one less dead bird,'' she said.

Saturday's clean-up was organised by Bay Beach Clean, a volunteer group which collects litter from the shoreline between Waitangi and Te Haumi once a fortnight in summer and once a month in winter.

Bay Beach Clean founder Brad Windust said he was delighted with Saturday's turnout.

''I'm always worried we'll only get a couple of people, but heaps turned out. It's because they care about the environment.''

■ A public meeting about recycling is being held in the Paihia Memorial Hall on Williams Rd from 6-8pm tonight. The event is organised by Focus Paihia with Zero Waste Paihia and the Far North District Council.