Dangerous items including smashed bottles are among rubbish discarded on Northland beaches this summer, forcing environment-conscious members of the public and lifeguards to clean up the mess.

The situation has prompted a call by lifeguards for people to be more responsible, with one environment watchdog even suggesting people should frequently pick up rubbish on the way to and from outdoor activities.

Research by Murdoch University, in Western Australia, revealed there were more than 7800 injuries on New Zealand beaches each year and the most common caused by litter were punctures and cuts.

Although the level of litter on Northland beaches is not alarming, a senior lifeguard at Ruakākā beach said rubbish such as plastics and glass bottles posed as much a health risk to people as they did to animals.

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"The idea behind councils not putting up rubbish bins at beaches is so that people take their rubbish with them.

''As lifeguards, we constantly pick up rubbish during the day when our job is to make sure people swim between the flags," Ruakaka Surf Lifesaving Club patrol captain Pia Harpour said.

On New Year's Eve, she said a fellow lifeguard found a stash of glass bottles on the beach which the lifeguards had to dig out. Two bottles were smashed and the broken pieces could have injured beachgoers, Harpour said.

Another lifeguard had to collect plastic bottles used as floats on crayfish pots but which became loose and washed up on the beach.

No one has been injured on the beach so far this festive season, she said.

"Clear glass bottles are right up there and then there are other bits and pieces, I picked up sand toys and plastic packaging on Wednesday. Litter on the beach is constant," she said.

Lifeguards such as Rhiannon Gill at Ruakaka beach are having to clean up people's rubbish, which includes smashed glass bottles and plastics. Photo/John Stone
Lifeguards such as Rhiannon Gill at Ruakaka beach are having to clean up people's rubbish, which includes smashed glass bottles and plastics. Photo/John Stone

Whangarei Heads Surf Lifesaving Club patrol captain Joe Wilson said lifeguards constantly pick up plastics, glass bottles and sometimes old fishing lines at Ocean Beach.

Nicholas Connop, from Our Real Clean Environment in Whangārei, said if more people picked up rubbish, beaches and other public places would be tidier.

"You may not have done it [before] but it's not difficult. Do it while going to the beach or even when out fishing. There are locals who do a lot to keep our beaches clean but there are also others who don't care.

"Generally, beaches are pretty clean but there are a lot of discarded stuff in hidden places like nearby bushes, sand dunes and grass. A lot of stuff gets washed up as well," he said.