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New Zealand’s Litter Revealed in New National Survey

New Zealand’s Litter Revealed in New National Survey

The Packaging Forum has today released “The National Litter Survey”, which is the first national study looking at New Zealander’s litter in over a decade. The development of the methodology and the survey have been carried out by specialist waste consultancy Waste Not Consulting Ltd.

The survey was commissioned by the Packaging Forum’s Public Place Recycling Scheme in order to establish a national litter index.

Lyn Mayes, Manager of the Public Place Recycling Scheme, said:

“One of our Key Performance Indicators is to target a reduction in the amount of packaging litter by 10% by 2020 but first we required an independent study into the current situation in New Zealand. This study, by Waste Not Consulting, provides us for the first time with national data about packaging litter but will also be a useful reference point for non-packaging organisations.”

The National Litter Survey litter field count involved the counting and classifying of loose litter, in situ, at 300 transects in eight urban areas – Auckland, Blenheim, Christchurch, Dunedin, Gisborne, New Plymouth, Taupo, and Wellington. These eight urban areas include 52% of the population of New Zealand.

A total of 18,620 items of visible and bulky litter were counted in an area estimated to be 581,764 m2 of public places. The survey found an average of 32.0 items of litter per 1,000 m2 surveyed. Industrial areas and arterial roads contained the highest number of litter items whereas car parks and waterside walkways contained the fewest.

Overall, it is estimated from the survey results that between 56% and 62% of visible and larger, bulky litter items were packaging. This is equivalent to 18.0-19.8 packaging items per 1,000 m2 of public place surveyed.

Food packaging represented the largest proportion of packaging items (37%), followed by drinks packaging (34%).

38%-44% of litter was not packaging, with paper representing the largest proportion (14%) followed by household items (4.8%).

Bruce Middleton, Director, Waste Not Consulting, said:

“In addition to the actual counting of visible and bulky litter during the National Litter Survey, a subjective assessment was made of the overall transect cleanliness, based on the number and visual intrusiveness of the litter items that were present. 87% of transects were assessed as being virtually or mostly free of visible litter.”

“A separate count of small litter items, such as glass pieces, cigarette butts and chewing gum, was also undertaken in smaller, subsample areas. When the results were adjusted to include small litter items, there were an estimated 914 pieces of litter per 1,000 m2. Incorporating the small litter count into the overall results shows that small litter comprised 96.5% of all litter items, visible litter 3.5%, and bulky litter 0.05%.”

Middleton said that, in developing the methodology for the survey, consideration had been given to surveys from around the world. The New Zealand survey results can be compared with international studies:

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful provides an annual assessment of the state of Northern Ireland's streets and public areas and in 2014 found that 83% met or exceeded standards for visible litter . This compares to 87% in the New Zealand survey assessed as being virtually or mostly free of visible litter.

Keep Australia Beautiful’s National Litter Index Annual Report 2011/2012 covers 983 sites across Australia. The survey methodology is similar to that used in New Zealand but does not include a separate small litter survey, although it does include cigarette butts. The overall average number of items per 1000 m2 in Australia, if adjusted to exclude cigarette butts, would be 30 items per 1000 m2. This compares to 32 in the New Zealand survey.

The City of Toronto, in its 2012 Toronto Streets Litter Audit, reports on a survey of 298 sites and also measured small litter separately. The Toronto survey found 1894 small litter items per 1000 m2 compared to 882 in the New Zealand survey.

Mayes says that the Packaging Forum will use the survey results to help inform collaborative work to improve performance.

“This snapshot found that 87% streets and public places surveyed were virtually or mostly free of visible litter. This indicates that councils and communities are providing effective clean up services. The real issue is how we change the way people think and act with regards to litter.

“We need waste and recycling bins in the right places and this is something that is a key focus for the Public Place Recycling Scheme. We need to look at programmes that promote the unacceptability of littering and also work with Local and Central Government on implementing litter control according to the powers set out in the Litter Act 1979.”

The Litter Survey will be conducted regularly to provide performance updates.


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