Volunteers have removed a surprisingly large amount of litter from an apparently pristine beach in Mount Maunganui.
The manager of Sustainable Coastline's Litter Intelligence programme, Ben Knight, said the group of a dozen volunteers collected more than 300 pieces of rubbish from Pilot Bay, a 1300-metre square stretch of beach.
Of the total 317 man-made items collected, 199 were plastic, including 79 cigarette butts, 40 unidentifiable hard plastics, 15 bottle caps, and 11 food wrappers. Foamed plastic (polystyrene, ear plugs) made up the second largest group, totalling 85 pieces.
Other litter found included metal, glass, rubber bands and chewing gum.
The volunteers, from the technology firm Brother, also found about 100 microplastics, that is, plastic fragments and beads measuring less than five millimetres long.
A company director with Brother, Mayuko Hirose, said at first glance, the beach looked clean.
"Pilot Bay has a visual assessment grade of A, meaning it appears from first look to have little to no litter present. So, it was a shock to find large contents of plastic and cigarette butts throughout the sand."
The Brother volunteers will continue to survey Pilot Bay regularly over the next three years.
The Litter Intelligence Programme is the country's first and only national litter monitoring programme.
Led by New Zealand charity Sustainable Coastlines, the programme works in close collaboration with the Ministry for the Environment, Department of Conservation and Statistics New Zealand.
Knight says it aims to inspire and inform better decisions for "a world without litter".
"It's grown so much since launching in 2018 which is a true testament to the dedicated efforts of our brilliant volunteer citizen scientists and our committed programme funders like Brother."