Coastal Restoration Trust of New Zealand

Coastal Dune Ecosystem Reference Database

Rubbish trends - Beach litter surveys at Kawerua, 1974-1982

Hayward, B.W.
Journal / Source
Four beach Utter surveys carried out in 1974,1975, 1981 and 1982 at Kawerua on the west coast of Northland, New Zealand, show that the dominant litter being washed ashore is (in order of decreasing abundance) dressed timber, fragments of moulded plastic and polystyrene, plastic bags, plastic bottles, plastic bottle tops and glass bottles. Slightly in excess of 50% of all items appears to be derived from fishing vessels and most of the remainder has been washed down flooded rivers and into the sea. Significant differences in Utter composition over the 8 year period are attributed to changes in product packaging (increased use of plastic at the expense of cardboard, glass and metal), trends in product consumption (increased popularity of yoghurt and wine), introduction of new items (plastic straws and plastic netting) and changes in fishing boat operations following the introduction of New Zealand's Exclusive Economic Zone (evidenced by a decrease in Asian items). The potential for over-interpretation of limited data is shown to be very real and demonstrates the need for a careful approach in prehistoric midden interpretation.