THE beach is littered with rubbish - some of it decades old.
National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger Tony DeMamiel pulls an old chip packet from a dune that's also covered with old bottles, plastic bags, toys and a single thong.
"Some of the things you pull out, you look at the expiry date and it says 1988," Mr DeMamiel said.
The Newcastle Herald reported yesterday that charity walker Rachel Klyve described Stockton beach as the most polluted she had walked on.
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Mr DeMamiel says the rubbish is a never-ending problem for the rangers responsible for keeping the beach clean.
The ocean wind and the shifting dunes can bury the refuse from a recent campsite and uncover another in minutes.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service spent $80,000 on a beach cleaner - the same machine used at Bondi Beach - late last year and it has already chewed through about 20,000 tonnes of rubbish.
The cleaner leaves the beach combed and pristine.
"Like a Japanese garden" is Mr DeMamiel's description.
But the job is never finished. New and uncovered trash still glistens in the afternoon sunlight on sites recently cleaned.
Much of the rubbish in the dunes appears to come from long-abandoned campsites.
Some is refuse washed ashore from ships waiting to enter the port.
One of the biggest contributors is the Hunter River. Refuse entering waterways throughout the Hunter Valley is carried out to sea and washed back ashore at the southern end of Stockton Bight.
Mr DeMamiel said a dead cow and sheep were found on the beach after recent heavy rain and flooding.
Environmental activist Tim Silverwood, who campaigns for beachgoers to take three pieces of rubbish with them when they leave, agreed that the river would cause a large amount of rubbish to wash up on Stockton.
"The best estimates of the UN are that 80 per cent of the rubbish in the ocean originally started on land," Mr Silverwood said.