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Dirty, filthy, horrible: Litter comes with a huge cost for Wellington and New Zealand

By Amber-Leigh Woolf & Ross Giblin | 07 Sep 2019 05:00

Ear bud

Littering costs ratepayers in the Wellington region millions and millions of dollars each year as councils clean up after people who can't be bothered using public or household bins.

Streets and parks are covered in cigarette butts, the harbour and waterways are full of discarded bottles, plastic and containers, and some don't even blink at throwing out used condoms and nappies.

According to a National Litter Audit released this week, the Wellington region has more litter in its retail areas, parks and residential areas compared to the national average.

And while some of it could be deemed accidental, the vast majority of littering is due to laziness and a basic reluctance to do the right thing.

Hutt City Council manager of sustainability and resilience Jörn Scherzer said the key challenge for everyone is to reduce and avoid unnecessary waste. 


The Hutt City Council spends between $150 to $180k each month for litter control.

"Businesses and manufacturers are part of the solution too and need to rethink their use of the plastics." 

Some businesses have already stopped using polystyrene, which can't be recycled, Scherzer said. 

Plastic takes centuries to degrade, he said. 

Broken Glass

The Wellington Region has more litter in its retail areas, parks, and residential areas compared to the national volumes.

Across 40 studied sites in the Wellington Region, 129 littered items were found per 1000 square metres in the national litter audit conducted by Keep New Zealand Beautiful (KNZB). 

Cigarette butts and vaping items were the most frequently littered thing with plastic the runner-up.

Disposable nappies contributed highly to the volume of litter.


Litter spots attract more people to littler, a study shows.

"We collect on average 18 tonnes of litter bags (per month) and 35 – 40 tonnes (per month) of street, channel, sump and illegal dumping debris," Hutt City Council spokeswoman Caryn Ellis said. 

In April, a report on the litter entering the stormwater system in Petone said more than 2000 rubbish items were dumped into the waterways over eight weeks. 

Cigarette butts were the leading gross pollutant entering stormwater drains, followed by plastic and paper.

Can Straw

Cigarette butts and vaping items were the most frequently littered, with plastic the runner up.

Wellington City Council spokeswoman Victoria Barton-Chapple said many different teams removed litter, including pedestrian area sweeping, cleaning wind-blown sand, spillages, chewing gum removal, and small street events. 

Littered coffee cup lids and bottle caps often travel from the city streets down drains to land on Wellington's South Coast. 

Wellington Harbour is inundated with bottles - last year, Ghost Fishing divers collected 971 bottles in just one hour.


Keep New Zealand Beautiful say about 16 per cent of New Zealanders litter.

Porirua City Council said they had collected more than 380 tonnes this year, which is "the tip of the iceberg". 

Plenty more was going into streams and the harbour, it added.

Who litters?

NLA Visuals

According to a KNZB study on the behaviour of littering last year, 16 per cent of New Zealanders litter. 

On average, the people who littered were 8.4 metres away from a rubbish bin. 

The study found people who were least spotted littering were age 65-plus and people under 18.  

Saunderson said that people would tend to litter where there was already rubbish on the ground. 

"There can be many reasons why people litter, from not feeling responsible for public areas through to not realising that what they're doing is littering when they throw small items out, like cigarette butts.

"Our littering habits require behaviour change and that's the work KNZB is focused on doing." 


Source: Stuff

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