Ken Boddie

11 months ago · 6 min. reading time · visibility ~10 ·

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Let's Talk Garbage


Coastal countries generated close to 275 million tonnes of plastic
waste in 2010, and 4.8 to 12.7 million tonnes of that plastic made
its way to the oceans.


¢- ll mag with exh cmt shaded acorn othe estat
Considered 192 countries. Countries: mass plastic waste (millions of metrk tonnes
rerio Slob rll generated in 2010 by populations living within 50 km of the coast.

No, I'm not suggesting that we bad-mouth, belittle or disparage each other by talking trash figuratively, metaphorically or even synecdochically [look it up].  I'm suggesting that we literally have a chat about garbage, in its most massive, buoyant and particulate form, as found 'all-at-sea' (again literally not figuratively) in a series of POPs.

Now I can see I've really confused you with the abbreviation POP.

By POP I don't mean:

  • the latest flavour of the week's 'pop' or popular music, being blasted in your ear by radio jocks; 
  • Post Office Protocol;
  • A not too loud bang - as in 'pop' goes the weasel, 'pop' your cork, or 'pop' that balloon; 
  • The 'old man' - as in, "Can I borrow the car tonight, pop?"; 
  • A soft carbonated drink - as in soda 'pop', at least one of which brands was reputedly alleged to dissolve steel nails; 
  • A sugary tooth decay propogant such as ice pop, lollipop or popsicle; or 
  • Persistent Organic Pollutant (although this one's getting close).

Some of you more environmentally aware citizens who are reading this may have already guessed that I'm talking about Plastic Ocean Patches of Garbage, or just Garbage POPs.

But before we talk Garbage POPs, let's talk ocean currents or gyres (see figure below).


There are five major circulating ocean current systems, or gyres, located as shown above. These swirling gyres circulate around large areas of calm water. When our various accumulations of garbage, over many years, end up in our oceans or are dumped at sea, it follows that they will eventually be directed towards the centre of the gyres and become contained within these relatively still central ocean waters, resulting in garbage patches or garbage POPs.  Each of these individual gyres has a sizeable garbage patch close to its centre, but the most significant POPs are found in the Indian Ocean, North Atlantic Ocean and North Pacific Ocean, the largest being in the latter. This monster is generally referred as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (look it up), but let's you and I call this the Great Pacific POP.

How Do POPs Form?

It appears (from this link and many similar others) that these POPs take a long time to form, starting with flotsam and jetsam, either carelessly discarded into our streams and rivers, or dumped from ocean-going vessels. This marine floating debris is then moved along by coastal currents (as outlined above) and then picked up by gyres (see also above), circulating until it makes its way to the centre where the POP forms as an ongoing entrapment, ever increasing in size.

What's in these POPs?

It appears (particularly from this link ) that most of the plastic (which has been sampled on an ongoing basis since the 1970s) consists of "rigid or hard polyethylene (PE) or polypropylene (PP), or derelict fishing gear" (the latter typically as nets or net fragments).  Unlike wood or metal, such plastics don't break down into constituent organic components, but, given enough time, eventually diminish to microplastic size (ie 0.5mm to 5mm) due to the action of the sun, waves and temperature changes. Once the debris reaches such microplastic size it becomes very difficult to remove and is comparable with the algae and plankton that forms the bottom of the marine food chain. 

How Big is the Great Pacific POP?

At present, the Great Pacific Pop (ie the largest of the POPs entrapped in each of the five main ocean gyres) cover an area of twice the size of Texas (What? Something's bigger than Texas?) or three times the size of France (1.6 million square kilometres approx and still growing exponentially).  Furthermore, scientists from the The Ocean Cleanup recently used 30 boats, 652 surface nets and 2 aerial imagery flights across and above this giant POP to estimate that the mass of this plastic is equivalent to 500 Jumbo Jets (80,000 metric tons). This estimate is reportedly based on the size and mass of the relatively denser central portion, for reasons of practicality.  Accounting for the less dense surrounds would reportedly increase this estimate to  approximately 100,000 tonnes.

In order to give some idea of how long these POPs have been around, The Ocean Cleanup estimates that every year 'we' (yes, you and I and all our plastic-polluting brethren) are disposing of between some 1 and 2.5 million tonnes of plastic, worldwide, into our oceans from our rivers, although it appears that, in addition to this, about half the mass of the Great Pacific POP comprises fishing net materials. 


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It is further estimated that there are approximately 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic (plus or minus half a trillion or more) in the great Pacific POP alone, and hence around 250 plastic bits for each of us on the planet. 

Why the Enviro Big Deal?

Things wouldn't be so bad (who am I kidding?) if all this plastic just sat there in a stable non-toxic form, would it not?  Well, marine mammals, fish and other sea creatures (including birds) mistake much of this plastic debris for food, leading to entanglement, malnutrition, health issues and often eventual death. BUT ALSO ... the majority of this plastic debris, according to several sources, contains "at least one Persistent Bio-accumulative Toxic (PBT) chemical, from which it follows that the marine fauna munching on this man-made meal are ingesting these toxic chemicals into the food chain.  Needless to say, the action of successive predator upon predator eventually leads to toxicity arriving at the top of the food chain, namely us.

Would you like some PBT with your fish and chips, madam?


Who's Responsible?

We all know the problems associated with single use plastic bags, PET bottles, straws, etc, etc, but most of us forget that, even in our most theoretically sophisticated garbage collecting and land disposing or recycle managing nations, plastics end up being dropped in our urban streets and rural roadside ditches, hence into our drains and then, depending upon the degree of filtration control (if any) of our wastewater and it's 'dead dogs and mattresses' coarse fragment flotsam, eventually into our streams, rivers and oceans.  As these POPs accumulate, in their largest forms, well away from our coastal areas and shorelines, it is almost impossible to physically track the various individual national sources of this POP litter and hence to apportion proportionate blame and clean-up costs.

I initially hesitated to include the figure below (from this reference ) as neither the source nor method of estimation are explained.  After some deliberation, however, I decided that it does serve to indicate, by at least relatively well-known anecdotal evidence, which countries are producing relatively large amounts of 'mismanaged waste' and hence, by inference, are potentially contributing the largest amounts of plastic to the POPs. It also indicates (or rather suggests) that "Asia and the Americas are clearly the most polluting geographical regions".


What Can You or I or Anyone Do?

Well things may not be as hopeless as you may initially think.  For starters, there's an amazing non-profit organisation currently developing and implementing advanced technologies to rid the world’s oceans of plastic.  Their headquarters are in Rotterdam and they are registered as a charity on the Netherlands and in the USA, their founder is Dutch inventor Boyan Slat, and they are called The Ocean Cleanup.  Read more about their unique and ground-breaking work at this link . 

And there are other active organisations such as the Environmental Cleanup Coalition based in California, Innovate UK, based (as the name would imply) in UK, and the Plastic Oceans Foundation (also based in UK).

As for us as individuals, here are some basic ideas cribbed from the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) to which I am a minute but proud financial contributor:

  • Step 1 - Be the change you want to be in the world - make a commitment and pledge to reduce single-use plastic in your everyday life.
  • Step 2 - Influence others - inspire your local business, club, groups, workplace to come on board and stop single-use plastics in the community.
  • Step 3 - Think BIG! Go straight to the top! Help bring governments and big business on board to create a plastic free nation.
Don't you just love this AMCS poster?


"Together we can turn the tide on plastic pollution.  We must choose to refuse plastic, and at the same time stop it at the source.  As stewards of an incredible marine natural heritage, Australia can and should be a world leader in stopping plastic pollution.  Australia must lead by example and change our domestic plastic consumption and help our neighbours to do the same."

Australian Marine Conservation Service

Remember that when our marine animals and birdlife suffer from the effects of plastic, we will eventually also suffer.



Photograph Credits 

The above compelling images, along with many others, of homo sapiens entangled in marine plastics waste and the fishing net fragment, can be sourced at the Plastic Ocean Project , an on-line gallery by Viennese artist /photographer Andreas Franke, which I encourage you to visit.


When not researching the weird or the wonderful, the comical or the cultured, the sinful or the serious, I chase my creative side, the results of which can be seen as selected photographs of my travels on my website at:

The author of the above, Ken Boddie, besides being a sometime poet and occasional writer, is an enthusiastic photographer, rarely leisure-travelling without his Canon, and loves to interact with other like-minded people with diverse interests.

Ken's three day work week (part time commitment) as a consulting engineer allows him to follow his photography interests, and to plan trips to an ever increasing list of countries and places of scenic beauty and cultural diversity.

group_work in Engineering our Future and in 1 more group

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Ken Boddie

5 months ago #34

Sarah Cohen

5 months ago #33

Thinking of all the plastic that gets into the oceans, etc. makes me nauseous. I do my part as best I can. I do believe in the power of education. Thank you for being such a terrific educator.

Ken Boddie

8 months ago #32

Further to my #29 below, Joyce, I'm glad that the dolphins and humpback whales we see along the was and west coasts of Australia, do not have to traverse the Indian Ocean or, indeed the coastline of Indonesia through to China, as my above main 'culprits' map suggests.

Ken Boddie

8 months ago #31

Further to my #28 below, Joyce, I'm glad that the dolphins and humpback whales we see along the was and west coasts of Australia, do not have to traverse the Indian Ocean or, indeed the coastline of Indonesia through to China, as my above main 'culprits' map suggests.

Agreed--I watched it again after I mentioned that and found much of it a sad commentary on humanity.

Ken Boddie

8 months ago #29

Thanks for the link, Joyce \ud83d\udc1d Bowen Brand Ambassador @ beBee, to a set of interesting videos. Following your good wishes, I 'enjoyed' the first video while viewing footage of pristine blue whales and dolphins, bringing back memories of my recent trip to Harvey Bay to see the humpbacks [ ], but the Indian Ocean gyre POP images at the end, and the follow-up videos, were more validatory of my concerns and the published work of other scientists than 'enjoyable'. I'll file this link away to view again in more depth (no pun intended) and at leisure. Cheers!

Something brought this to mind. I hope you enjoy it. A Plastic Ocean 2016 - Documentary With Subtitles

Fay Vietmeier

10 months ago #27

Ken Boddie Dear Bard .. you are attentive ;~) I am "fond of Biblical logic" .. for here I find Light & Wisdom to illuminate my path .. I find Peace from the worlds chaos .. and provision & protection .. .. and I find answers to questions that can be found no where else. Which says much considering that we are of the Information Age .. which includes mis-information (another matter entirely) Your words: Plastic population IS endemic "Endemic" reflects the sin condition of humanity (the root of pollution is the sin condition) Cure that and wall-ah the earth will heal .. I would gladly "hop on a COVID defying plane to give Xi Jinping et al a piece of my mind .. would he grant this peasant an audience My trust is other wings .. "beneath HIS everlasting arms there is safety" We are "broken" people .. breaking our planet ( there are many, many forms of pollution) "The Fractal State of Humanity"

Ken Boddie

10 months ago #26

Since you appear to be fond of biblical logic, Fay Vietmeier, not sure who should “cast the first stone”, as plastic polution is virtually endemic and most of us are doing it to some extent, either knowingly or otherwise. Perhaps the above 3 AMCS steps are a good starting point, unless you‘re volunteering to hop on a COVID defying plane to give Xi Jinping et al a piece of your mind? 🤗

Fay Vietmeier

10 months ago #25

Ken Boddie ;~) "keenness" We are to be "good stewards" of this gem planet But greed and corruption are an even worst form of pollution It is sinful ... what has been done to earth No wonder in Scripture we are told "the earth groans" I am without adjectives to speak about the LACK of personal responsibility. "Let's get keen on clean" .. as in clean our rivers & oceans ..

Ken Boddie

10 months ago #24

#23 I could be wrong, Fay Vietmeier, but I get the impression that perhaps I’ve awoken in you a slight keenness on this topic.

Fay Vietmeier

10 months ago #23

Oceans .. in CRISIS .. Global Tragedy for Our Oceans and Sea Life Plastic accumulating in our oceans and on our beaches has become a global crisis. Billions of pounds of plastic can be found in swirling convergences that make up about 40 percent of the world's ocean surfaces. At current rates plastic is expected to outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050. Rivers of (waste) refuse:

Fay Vietmeier

10 months ago #22

Ken Boddie Great post dear "Bard" "synecdochically" .. good one .. thank you for teaching me a new word ;~) .. the oceans .. in CRISIS .. Global Tragedy for Our Oceans and Sea Life Plastic accumulating in our oceans and on our beaches has become a global crisis. Billions of pounds of plastic can be found in swirling convergences that make up about 40 percent of the world's ocean surfaces. At current rates plastic is expected to outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050. Thank you for highlighting "The Ocean Cleanup" (Netherlands & USA) Environmental Cleanup Coalition based in California Innovate UK Plastic Oceans Foundation (also based in UK). Australian Marine Conservation Society MULTIPLIED thanks Ken for bringing to light this massive environment problem. It is SHOCKING that so little attention is given to solve this. Without question .. the vast majority of mankind has proved to NOT be good stewards A WAKE-UP call ... "marine animals and birdlife suffer from the effects of plastic, we will eventually also suffer." "eventually" HAS ARRIVED it is TODAY From eternity past God saw ... No wonder that one day there will be a "new heavens & a new earth" "Choose to refuse" we must learn to re-use

Fay Vietmeier

10 months ago #21

Harvey Lloyd Multiplied thanks for that link WOW !! ** !! ** !! .. every 24 hours, these five rivers collectively push 413 elephants of plastic into the world's oceans .. NOTE: 3 of the 5 rivers are in China (the top 2 POLUTED rivers are in China)

Ken Boddie

11 months ago #20

Thanks, Robert. It’s a pity this wasn’t the theme for a crime fiction novel, instead of harsh reality, and then, between us, we might be able to concoct a happy ending.

Robert Cormack

11 months ago #19

Good piece, Ken. Frightening, but what isn't these days?

Ken Boddie

11 months ago #18

Unfortunately, Lada \ud83c\udfe1 Prkic, our various systems of government, and the ease with which a chosen powerful few developers/industrialists can have overly representative access to and influence on our politicians, is, I believe, mostly to blame for exploitation and pollution, as I outlined in my #11. The only way forward is the voice of the people who vote. If the West doesn't get its act together, then how can we possibly sway the rest?

Lada 🏡 Prkic

11 months ago #17

Hi, Ken. First, I definitely would not like to eat PBT with my fish and chips. :) You wrote: "Together we can turn the tide on plastic pollution. We must choose to refuse plastic, and at the same time stop it at the source." I agree that we, as individuals, can contribute to that goal, only to some extent. But not doing anything and remaining silent is the worst option. The progress of humanity should not mean pollution of waters with industrial waste, plastics and other garbage (even waters we drink and the food we eat). Progress and development shouldn't be the exploitation of natural resources. Unfortunately, it is. If the voice of the people is loud enough ...

Harvey Lloyd

11 months ago #16

I can only agree about sources. I sent that base solely on the fact i gathered several of these styled graphics from several sources myself. But as you stated it is difficult to understand the validity of any data these days. Thought the elephants were a bit challenging. My main reason for looking into this was i live on one of the larger rivers of the Cheasapeake Bay Area. I dont “see” the levels of plastic pollution and see the local efforts to keep the river clean. Thanks for bringing the attention to a growing issue.

Ken Boddie

11 months ago #15

Thanks for the link to another graphic display, Harvey, but it begs the question of how has this daily dose of plastic (well translated into elephant units) been estimated and ground-truthed. Irrespective, the numbers in your ESRI data-sourced map illustration appear to compare well with my above reproduced Plastic Pollution in Oceans map. The main reason (in the absence of source data) that I give credibility to such presentations is that the highest concentrations of plastic waste go hand in hand with regions of highest population and manufacturing. Nevertheless such maps initiate questions of how other mighty rivers in industrialised and heavily populated areas might compare, such as the Nile, Rhine, Mississipi and the Thames. The latter has been reported by the BBC as also being heavily plastic polluted but with no daily ‘elephant’ numbers. It’s hard to throw stones from our own western historical glass houses and shame rapidly developing countries of allegedly worst plastic pollution, unless such displays and their elephantile graphic proportions are readily linked to credible data and readily reproducible quantifying methodology. Much food for thought and further research here, Harvey. Again, many thanks.

Ken Boddie

11 months ago #14

Many thanks, Joyce. Sharing is caring. 😁

Harvey Lloyd

11 months ago #13

By the way, Ken. I shared your article on both my website and one other. It was just too damned good. [And you know me--remaining silent has never been my thing...]

Ken Boddie

11 months ago #11

While western democracies, Joyce, continue to permit political donations from for-profit corporations, banning any major and financially industrial product or activity will only be considered if it becomes apparent that enough votes will otherwise be lost. Unfortunately, egalitarian democracies, which require that all people are treated equally, are a pipe dream and all too often play second fiddle to the voice of the industrial dollar. The worst we can do is remain individually silent, and, in so doing, uphold and propagate the problem of worldwide pollution. ☹️

Zacharias 🐝 Voulgaris

11 months ago #10

True. I don't see that happening any time soon though, since there are lots of financial interests based on plastic. Besides, they never outlawed other harmful substances, such as tar, even though they are known to have negative effects on people's health. If there is money to be made on a particular material, you can be certain it won't be outlawed...

The big way governments can contribute is to outlaw plastic.

The big way they can contribute is to outlaw plastic.

Ken Boddie

11 months ago #7

But the end-point clean-up, Zacharias \ud83d\udc1d Voulgaris, is only the downstream though perhaps more obvious end of the problem. As in the case of the air we breath, the water we drink and the climate we enjoy, the upstream end is where we need to focus. Prevention is better than the cure in the long term, and prevention requires the so called ‘developed’ countries to lead by example. If the voice of the people is loud enough, then governments will relent, despite the greed and influence of a few rogue industrial giants. .

Zacharias 🐝 Voulgaris

11 months ago #6

It's great there are initiatives like the one from that Dutch inventor in Rotterdam. I've heard something similar from a student (!) in the US, though less mature as a tech at that time. I kinda doubt any government would contribute to fighting this issue since it's, well, in international waters, so way beyond their jurisdiction! Glad you raise awareness of the issue though, something we can also contribute to, to some extent. Cheers

Ken Boddie

11 months ago #5

That might explain, Joyce \ud83d\udc1d Bowen Brand Ambassador @ beBee, why they're getting hard to find and expensive. Soon you'll have to buy the sheets individually and pay-per-towel. 😂🤣😂

Oh, and by the way, Ken Boddie. Do you know how they make paper towels so strong? You got it—they add plastic. Buy organic

You have me rolling in laughter. You seem to have pegged me to a T. People already beg others not to send, "That Woman..." I mean--Moi?

Ken Boddie

11 months ago #2

Thanks, Joyce \ud83d\udc1d Bowen Brand Ambassador @ beBee for your encouraging response in your inimitable “take no prisoners” fashion. Perhaps another form of discouragement might be to threaten to let you loose on single use plastic repeat offenders. 😂🤣😂

Terrific work, Ken Boddie. I could just hug you if you promise me your watch-parrot won't attack me. And this: "We must choose to refuse plastic, and at the same time stop it at the source." Yes--this is the way to go. Governments won't stop plastic so we must. Industry tries to shift the responsibility for their fiasco onto the consumer while still selling many items packaged in plastic. It's a corporate strategy by the name of "Externality." In humans, this would be called pathology. In terms of corporate behavior, it's great stuff!! If each and every one of us refused to buy any products from any company packaging in plastic at all, watch how fast we could change their behaviors. If each and every one of us challenged all companies on their aberrant behaviors we could change the world.

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