Messages in bottles, a brass artillery shell, dentures, and loads of asbestos - almost anything imaginable has been plucked from our beaches.

But by far the most common and most concerning item found is single-use plastic products - it's found 75 per cent of the time.

Long gone are the days where you could walk along the beach without spotting rubbish items, but there are those fighting to make a difference.

Sustainable Coastlines co-founder Camden Howitt said plastic of an unknown origin is the worst offender, followed by food wrappers and bits of glass.

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He said the plastic they find is so broken down by their time in the ocean or on beaches they become unrecognisable.

Over the past year, Sustainable Coastlines picked up 102,545 litres of rubbish from our shores, equivalent to three full-size shipping containers.

Rubbish which Sustainable Coastlines have picked up from our shores. Photo / Sustainable Coastlines
Rubbish which Sustainable Coastlines have picked up from our shores. Photo / Sustainable Coastlines

Helping to contribute to this was a band of 10,255 volunteers who took time out to help the organisation for a total of 17,083 combined hours.

Keep New Zealand Beautiful (KNZB) is another organisation whose members are getting their hands dirty in the name of defending our marine environment.

KNZB doesn't record statistics around rubbish collection from beaches but spokeswoman Kath Doubleday said Clean Up Week was a success.

Between September 10-16 last year , KNZB estimates a total of 102,466 hours were volunteered.

"This is based on our final volunteer number of 51,223, giving on average two hours of their time as part of Clean Up Week," Doubleday said.

"Cigarette butts are always a problem and were again this year. Aside from this, takeaway packaging is often found."

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An artwork featuring more than 8000 reused bottle caps. Photo / Sustainable Coastlines
An artwork featuring more than 8000 reused bottle caps. Photo / Sustainable Coastlines

To prevent rubbish gathering on our shores, Howitt said any Kiwi can do several things to help solve the problem.

"Help your friends and whānau make better decisions with what they buy, and what they throw away," he said.

"Pick up rubbish when you see it, even if it's not yours. Say no to plastic straws. Buy food in bulk, or make and grow your own food at home to reduce packaging.

"Reduce your use of single-use plastics. Bring your own takeaway containers, coffee cups, and shopping bags."

Last year, the Government announced a ban on all single-use plastic bags by the middle of this year.2019

Countdown declared itself free of single-use plastic bags last October - the first supermarket in New Zealand to do so.

Rubbish which is dumped in gutters finds its way to the sea. Photo / Sustainable Coastlines
Rubbish which is dumped in gutters finds its way to the sea. Photo / Sustainable Coastlines

Meanwhile, Foodstuffs made the call to ban single-use plastic bags from the start of this year for all retail and wholesale brands including Pak'nSave and New World.

However, something still needs to be done about the rubbish which is collected from our beaches in the meantime.

Sustainable Coastlines attempts to recycle or reuse as much of the rubbish it finds as possible after separating items into different categories.

"We separate it into categories and count and weigh each category to collect important data on the litter problem," Howitt said.

"We keep some items to turn into artworks, recycle what we can, and the remainder goes to landfill."

Meanwhile, KNZB takes the rubbish it collects to Waste Management or Envirowaste where, again, as much as possible is recycled.

The next beach cleanup Sustainable Coastlines will host is on Friday, January 18 from the Wellington Museum Waterfront.

KNZB said its next clean up is yet to be confirmed but it is likely to be during February.