Efforts are underway to figure out just how much rubbish end up on our beaches.
"We've had over 1000 surveys come in around Aotearoa, a huge amount of effort, over 13,000 volunteer hours over 250 beaches," said Camden Howitt, the co-founder of Sustainable Coastlines.
Its project, Litter Intelligence had been running since 2018 and aimed to not only record - and publish - data on how much rubbish was on New Zealand's beaches, but also to identify trends over time.
1News joined a survey group at Point Chevalier Beach in Auckland. They had measured out a 100m by 20m area and volunteers were spaced out in a line, combing through the top few centimetres of sand.
"To the eye it looks like it's clean, but the reality is that all the beaches that I've been to we always get a lot of litter," said Carla Fonseca Paris, who was leading this team.
"We try to move the sand around a little bit and get all those broken-down pieces of plastic."
The goal, she said, was to put together enough data so New Zealand officials could figure out how bad the pollution problem was, and what needed to be done to fix it.
"You can't take action and find solutions to things you can't measure," she told 1News.
The data, published online, identified some of the countries cleanest - and most polluted - beaches.
The beachfront in Granity, on the South Island's West Coast, was among the cleanest, with a surveying team finding almost no rubbish at its most recent survey.
Meanwhile a stretch of beach in Porirua, near Paramata Bridge, regularly recorded high volumes of litter, with 4,381 items found per 1000sqm during the last survey there in October.
Camden Howitt said New Zealand had the opportunity to act swiftly to address this problem and had made promising progress nationwide.
He said the banning of single-use plastic bags was one example, with more and more government action on this issue in recent years.
"If we don't act fast enough, we will see the likes of increased flooding because our drains and streets are clogged with litter, we'll see wildlife like we've seen in Aotearoa with their stomachs clogged with plastics, with their necks strangled in plastic," he said.
“That is not what anyone wants to see.”