More than 130,000 pieces of rubbish were picked up by volunteers from Rangitoto Island's coastline on the tenth anniversary of Sir Peter Blake's death.

The December 6 clean-up by 1200 volunteers was the second effort at Rangitoto by Sustainable Coastlines - a charity that works to keep New Zealand's shores rubbish-free.

"It's shocking that that much rubbish is arriving on a regular basis - it's a constant flow," said a co-founder of Sustainable Coastlines, Sam Judd.

The rubbish includes Auckland City parking tickets blown off windscreens, glass beer bottles tossed into the water and cigarette butts chucked on the ground.


All of it floats to Rangitoto's shores. A recent audit of what was picked up found that the volunteers had collected 18,376 food wrappers or containers, 18,170 plastic bags and 2,345 straws or stirrers and much more.

"There's just sacks and sacks and sacks of rubbish every single time you go there and rubbish that's obviously been dropped in Auckland," Mr Judd said.

This year, volunteers found much more glass than last - which Mr Judd said could only be put down to the Rugby World Cup. "We got a lot more glass than last year and you could infer from those results that the extra amount of glass is from all the drinking that went on during the world cup."

Sustainable Coastline's 2010 Rangitoto clean-up, the charity's first on the island, collected more than 200,000 pieces of rubbish.

If this year's tides had been the same as last year so the same bits of coastline could have been accessed, Mr Judd believed the volunteers would have picked up the same amount.

"We had a boat go out to Rangitoto Island first thing in the morning and then [volunteers] walked all the way around to Islington Bay, which is where it meets Motutapu. So they spent a solid hour walking where they otherwise would have spent cleaning up the coast. If we had the same amount of man hours on the ground as last year, I would have expected to have seen pretty similar numbers."

But it's not just New Zealand's beautiful coastlines that people's careless littering is damaging - it's also harming the food we take from the oceans.

Mr Judd said Bisphenol A (BPA), often found in the plastic of the 618 parking tickets picked up, created a hormonal imbalance and could cause cancer. "Those little bits of plastic and the toxins that are in the plastic get into the food chain. Then they go up the food chain ... and get a thousand times worse each step up the food chain that they take.


"Then we fish all the species at the top of the food chain, like the tuna and the sharks, so by the time we eat that, it's really, really toxic - so it's affecting people."

Most of the 1200 volunteers were students from pre-schools through to colleges around Auckland.

Getting children involved was a means of making the message about littering stick in the future.

"It's hard to change the habits of adults, but kids haven't made that decision yet - to drop their lollipop stick on the ground," Mr Judd said.

The day off school was a treat for the children who hung over the edge of the ferries to watch the waves, played in the water and whose efforts were rewarded at the end of the day with ice-cream and Whittakers's chocolate.

For half of the students from Room 3 at Wesley Intermediate it was their first time on a boat. "It's been a really great experience for them," said their teacher, Martha Dyer.


And when the students asked whether they would drop rubbish into the ocean again, they answered with a resounding "no".

Sustainable Coastline needs more volunteers for its up-coming clean-up at Matakana on January 29, Coromandel Clean-up on March 3-5 and the North Shore 'Love Your Coast' Clean-up on March 22-2.

What was found

1133 cigarette packets, wrappers or butts.
18,376 food wrappers or containers.
2345 straws or stirrers.
2606 pieces of rope.
618 parking tickets or receipts.
5394 plastic sheets or tarps.
18,170 plastic bags.
540 glass bottles.
28,945 pieces of plastic with unknown origin.