Jamie McDell and fans clean up Motuihe Island video

ERIN SPEEDY/Stuff.co.nz

Jamie McDell reached out to her fans to help clean up Motuihe Island.

Known for its pristine beaches and coastlines, New Zealand's clean green image is at risk as litter problems get worse.

But one Kiwi songstress is encouraging her fans to help out. 

Jamie McDell spent the best part of Wednesday cleaning up the beach on Motuihe Island in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf, rewarding her fans and helpers with a free gig afterwards.

Jamie McDell with some of the rubbish picked up from around Motuihe Island.
ERIN SPEEDY/FAIRFAX NZ

Jamie McDell with some of the rubbish picked up from around Motuihe Island.

On the island, dubbed one of the gulf's treasures, nearly 40 people talked trash as they picked up litter dropped by untidy Kiwis - much of which would have floated over from the city. 

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Around 5kg of rubbish was picked up -  including a toilet seat and a tyre - within an hour of sweeping the "pristine" coastline.

The end result of an hour's worth of beachcombing.
ERIN SPEEDY/FAIRFAX NZ

The end result of an hour's worth of beachcombing.

Working in partnership with Contiki and Sustainable Coastlines, McDell reached out to her fans through social media. 

"I love the fact that we are here picking up rubbish, but a big part of that for me is really getting to the core of why there is rubbish on the beach," McDell said. 

Among the littered beaches of the island were plastic wrappers, glass bottles, boxes of empty alcohol bottles, jandals and pegs. 

The team which helped clean up Motuihe Island.
ERIN SPEEDY/FAIRFAX NZ

The team which helped clean up Motuihe Island.

"What my main purpose to do is to really get young people inspired to get outside and love the outdoors as much as I do, I feel like that would give them their own kind of reason to feel like they need to protect it without forcing anything on anyone," McDell said. 

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As the volunteers gathered together after combing the beaches and tipped their sacks of rubbish, together many were shocked.

"You think New Zealand is so clean and green, and then you see this," said one. 

The others also agreed that the resulting pile was eye-opening, something they had never thought much about. 

"I think the most important thing is that everyone takes away a few ideas of how they can reduce their use of plastic and see for themselves the harms that the amount of single use plastic we use has on the environment," McDell said.

A lot of the rubbish which ends up on New Zealand coastlines is single use plastic packaging, such as food wrap and other packaging, said Anna Mathieson, development manager for Sustainable Coastlines.

"Most of this rubbish comes from people who carelessly litter. All drains eventually lead to the sea, so when you drop rubbish in the streets it will inevitably end up on the coastline," she said. 

The oils and chemicals which make up plastic never biodegrade, but just get broken into smaller and smaller pieces that never go away, she said. 

"To properly tackle the issue of rubbish on our coastlines, we all need to think about the purchasing decisions we make. It's not enough to just recycle plastic - we need to refuse to buy products that are unnecessarily packaged in plastic. 

"Plan ahead, take a reusable bag with you, get a reusable drink bottle, cup and container for takeaways. Say no to plastic straws and think twice about what you're buying. Your dollar is your vote - every time you get your wallet out, your choice makes an impact," she said. 

But the most worrying items of rubbish were the smallest bits that cause the most damage - plastic 'nurdle' balls which are the first stage of creating plastic.

All sorts of marine creatures eat the nurdles,which sit in their stomachs and the chemicals then get absorbed, McDell said.

Many hands make light work when it comes to raising awareness about plastic on New Zealand coastlines.

"Sustainable Coastlines' purpose is to inspire people to look after the places that we love, like beaches. Coming out here for the day is a fun way to get people thinking about the choices that they make and how we can all play a part in being better, more responsible humans," Mathieson said

Motuihe Island was the place of choice because not many people get out there, she said. 

Sustainable Coastlines has scoured thousands of kilometres of coastline and picked up nearly one million litres of rubbish off Kiwi beaches since 2008.

 - Stuff

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