TODAY |

Meet the Kiwi who reckons he's picked up 15 tonnes of rubbish on beaches

Des Watson will go to any extreme to collect even the smallest piece of litter - even if that means using a vacuum cleaner on the side of the road.

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The extraordinary Kiwi is now attracting interest from researchers. Source: 1 NEWS

His obsession with cleaning up the country, in particular its coastlines, formed a little over a year ago when he became cleaning up the beach near his home in Westport.

"I'd start wandering the beach for a couple of hours after work in the evening and would find myself filling up two buckets," he told 1 NEWS.

That's when he made the decision to pack his life into a self-contained solar-powered unit on the back of a trailer, and travel the country picking up and recycling litter.

Fast forward 14 months and Des reckons he's collected 15 tonnes of rubbish.

"The Karamera Bluffs has a massive fly tipping spot, there was probably about one and a half tonnes of rubbish there alone. Greymouth was pretty bad too," he says.

Using some pincers, a makeshift sieve and a generator at times to plug his vacuum into, Des says he's determined to clean up as much as he can to raise awareness on the amount of ocean pollution.

"New Zealand is nowhere as bad as some parts of the world but we should be doing more. Nearly everything that ends up littered, washes into our storm water pipes and washes out to see, before it's brought back ashore. It's bad for our seabird and marine life."

One hundred thousand marine animals, and one million seabirds die every year from plastic related injuries.

Just last month in Napier, an albatross died after ingesting an entire 500ml plastic water bottle, and parts of a rubber balloon.

While the job is rewarding - the roadside toots from passing traffic, the odd box of freshly baked cookies delivered or a small donation for his commitment to the cause - Des says it can become depressing.

"It's so hard to walk pass rubbish now, everywhere I look I spot cigarette butts or bottle caps. It can make me really sad sometime but you've just got to persevere," he says.

Not only is Des making the coastlines a cleaner place, but he's helping marine scientists worldwide by tracking and logging every piece he collects.

"It's a citizen scientist app called Marine Debris. Anyone can download it worldwide and enter the details of what they found and where," he says.

This helps scientists behind the app have a better understanding of where rubbish could be coming from.

Des says there's no end in sight for his self-appointed job. He'll keep travelling the country doing his bit for the foreseeable future.

"I feel if I don't pick it up, I don't know who will.. And if I don't pick it up, the ocean will."