Pacific Ocean Trash Vortex

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while. Recently  a lot of people on Facebook posted photos about this issue, so I figured it was a good time to build on the inertia.

Please reshare this post on Facebook so we can spread the awareness of this problem.

After arriving in Huanchaco 4 months ago I noticed that every day the ocean would wash up enormous amounts of plastic garbage onto the beach. Every day local workers would show up to clean the tourist beach, but the north and south remained littered with debris. It was clear to me that this waste was coming from out at sea, but why? And where was the source?

After doing some research I discovered that our Pacific Ocean is in serious trouble. The problem was much worse than I could have possibly imagined. That got me wondering how many other people know about this? So here is what I found when I looked under the covers…

There is a “plastic soup” of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean and it is growing at an alarming rate. Maybe you heard it was the size of Texas? Yes, it was at one point. But now scientists believe it covers an area twice the size of the continental United States, and is still growing.

The vast expanse of debris – in effect the world’s largest rubbish dump – is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting “soup” stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan.

Charles Moore, a former sailor, came across the sea of waste by chance in 1997, while taking a short cut home from a Los Angeles to Hawaii yacht race. He had steered his craft into the “North Pacific gyre” – a vortex where the ocean circulates slowly because of little wind and extreme high pressure systems. Usually sailors avoid it.

He was astonished to find himself surrounded by rubbish, day after day, thousands of miles from land. “Every time I came on deck, there was trash floating by,” he said in an interview. “How could we have fouled such a huge area?”

Mr Moore, the heir to a family fortune from the oil industry, subsequently sold his business interests and became an environmental activist. Back then he warned that unless consumers cut back on their use of disposable plastics, the plastic stew would double in size over the next decade. It’s far exceeded that prediction.

Most debris consists of small plastic particles suspended at or just below the surface, making it impossible to detect by aircraft or satellite. Instead, the size of the patch is determined by sampling.

The “soup” is actually two linked areas, on either side of the islands of Hawaii, known as the Western and Eastern Pacific Garbage Patches.


The Garbage Patch formed gradually as a result of marine pollution gathered by oceanic currents. The gyre’s rotational pattern draws in waste material from across the North Pacific Ocean. As material is captured in the currents, wind-driven surface currents gradually move floating debris toward the center, trapping it in the region.


So what are the sources of pollutants:

In a nutshell, we are the source.

About 20% of the junk is thrown off ships or oil platforms. Ship-generated pollution is a source of concern, since a typical 3,000-passenger cruise ship produces over eight tons of waste weekly, a major amount of which ends up in the patch.

The other 80% of the garbage comes from land-based sources.

Rivers carry garbage out to sea, which then makes its way into the patch. Currents carry debris from the west coast of North America to the gyre in about six years, and debris from the east coast of Asia in a year or less.

Pollutants range in size from abandoned fishing nets to micro-pellets used in abrasive cleaners and includes everything from footballs to kayaks to Lego blocks and carrier bags. Plastic cans, bottles, toys, bags, cups, balls… you get the picture.

You name it, and it’s in there…


The biggest problem is our addiction to plastic.

According to National Geographic, more than 200 million tones of plastic are produced each year, of which about 10% ends up in the oceans.  And once plastic is made, it NEVER breaks down.

All of this plastic in the ocean is having a devastating effect on Marine life.

This statistic is grim—for marine animals, of course, but even more so for humans. Why? Because just like the marine life, we’re now ingesting plastic toxins constantly.


Plastic has made it’s way into the food chain.

All sea creatures, from the largest to the microscopic organisms, are, at one point or another, swallowing the seawater soup instilled with toxic chemicals from plastic decomposition. The world population is eating fish that have eaten other fish, which have eaten toxin-saturated plastics. In essence, humans are eating their own waste.



267 marine species are affected by plastic garbage already.

All sea creatures are threatened by floating plastic, from whales down to zooplankton.

We are the last in the food chain, and we are definitely experiencing the consequences of our actions.


You could take your blood serum to a lab right now, and they’d find at least 100 industrial chemicals (INSIDE OF YOU) that did not exist in 1950.

If that doesn’t deeply disturb you, then you have your head buried in the plastic.


What we can do:

As sad as it is, this is such a monstrous problem that it will be very hard to stop and reverse the damage. Our world is addicted to plastic. But here is what you can do to try and help.


1) Although recycling makes only a small impact, everyone should do it, period. And more importantly, we need to push for and support more robust recycling programs, because right now they are pathetic.

2) Stop using plastic.  That’s the only way we can eliminate all the toxic products that harm the animals and us human beings. This is clearly easier said than done. Not using plastic is currently impossible, but each person CAN reduce plastic use.

To make the biggest impact, minimize your consumption of bottled water, bottled soda, and plastic bags.


3) The BIGGEST thing we can do to help this problem is make the transition to biodegradable plastics. Biodegradable plastics will decompose in natural aerobic (composting) and anaerobic (landfill) environments.

The biggest challenge here will be getting the plastic companies like Dupont to transition to biodegradable plastics. That is about as challenging as trying to get the oil companies to pursue clean fuel alternatives.

As with many of the problems of our day, this one seems hopeless. I hate to leave a blog post in a pessimistic light, but to be honest with you, I am losing faith that enough people will evolve the consciousness required to fix these problems fast enough to make a difference. 


Let’s hope I’m wrong.



Some interesting links:


Some good videos:




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  1. Thanks son…great information.

    • get rid of those bottled waters bud. Get a filter. love you


      Its not so much the water bottles i mean i agree we should go back to glass bottles already have enough plastic world. it the fact’s of recycling and waste management. plus in the first place we shouldn’t create a non bio degradable product that cant be reused recycled. plus the sad thing is no ones gonna read any of this or really cares because its go go go NASCAR MY Folk’s GO GO GO GREEN GREEN GREEN

  2. Anonymous says:

    that is just so depressing. what the hell is wrong with humans?

    • lol i love how people love to blame “Humans” like they aren’t themselves, no snowflake ever feels responsible for an avalanche, you wrote a message on the internet, you have used a computer you thus you have supplied a demand for plastic yourself.
      The first stage you fixing a problem, is admitting you are wrong and part of the problem

  3. Cyndi Lou says:

    Thanks Tree. Mikey has been educating me about this for some time now. I agree, even a small action is an important one.

    • agreed. we all need to take action. sooner the better! hope you are doing well up there. Thinking of you, 🙂

      • Anonymous says:

        Citation needed.

        • Anonymous says:

          Agreed. Where did the “3-5% of plastics are recycled in any way” figure come from? Just consumer plastics or all? A source would make this case more compelling.

  4. Oh my gawd! Gross! I had no idea the magnitude. Thanks for a very imformative and eye-opening piece. Good work, Tree.

  5. I know I know!!! what a horrific problem. I remember a couple of years ago we were on a ferry crossing in Cambodia and as the locals finished their lunch…. which was in sytrofoam containers, they just tossed them over into the river… it actually made me physically ache and we tried to convince some of them to not dump them in such a manner but it is so ingrained in their way of thinking we had no success. Hopefully by getting the word out there we can help reduce such waste and try to ebb this ever growing problem.

    • yeap, we’ve got to change the culture, both within the population as well as our corporate culture, specifically what they value.

  6. mamatuyas says:

    Thank you thank you. Building awareness is the first and most important step. EVERY thing we do makes a difference – every plastic bottle recycled, every time we chose to carry our own grocery bag instead of using plastic ones, each time we share information with others – it is all part of a solution to save our entire planet. I’d like to add political action to the list. Finding ways to influence congress and corporations and public opinion is vital. Standing up for our planet in letters, posts, campaigns and protests – and in videos the way you just have – is our best hope to facilitate change.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I honor you. You try to make a difference in an uninformed and uncaring world.

  8. Great post. A buddy of mine couldn’t have kids.. I was kidding him about years he drank sun baked water from nalgene bottles.

  9. Nicely done. Are you familiar with Curtis Ebbesmeyer’s book “Flotsametrics and the Floating World”? A bit biography, history, oceanography. A little discouraging regarding solutions. His hope is through educating future generations to care enough to make better decisions. Thanks

    • I haven’t heard about Curtis, but I will check it out for sure. Thanks for the recommendation Cindy!

  10. Alyce Pearce says:

    Tree, this couldn’t be more aptly timed…I am horrified by the reliance on plastics in our society…and have been wanting to take local action to do what I can. Thanks. Hope all’s well on the road!

  11. Nevia Mayers says:

    Thank you for raising awareness. May we find a solution!

  12. Alexander Roberts says:

    Some plastics never break down, they just break up into smaller bits – which get into the food chain – and into us.

    EVERYTHING we use should be recycled, There should be a fine for throwing anything away. I grew up in a steel mill town. The idea of throwing away steel or aluminum – burying it – is repulsive to me because I know what it takes to make it.

    Packaging – Why aren’t food containers (in particular) uniform and reuseable ? Why don’t cans come with screw on lids ?

  13. Mark Nilsson says:

    This is so important. I’ve been fascinated (or mortified) by the ocean gyre for a while now and have said no to as much plastic as I can.

  14. Thank you for posting this, as much as I want to look away….it needs to be faced. I need to figure out how to help!

  15. Monica Kelly says:

    me toooooooo! no plastic!!!!

  16. Guys, I think it’s great to promote reduced usage, but our only hope is to pressure companies to change to biodegradable plastics. Everything we touch every day is made of plastic, so we can’t solve the problem by reduction. We have to change the system. Food for thought. TREE

    • Anonymous says:

      Maybe it’s time for a new industry — “plastic seining” — where fishing type boats go to the gyre and sift through to load up on plastic and bring it back to land to be processed. They could even use factory style ships and process the plastic right on board!

  17. roto boats made of bio-degradable PE..yeah right! 😉 dude you should get yourself a FB page…just sayin’ 😉

  18. Alyce Pearce Crocker says:

    I was happy to hear Maui has banned plastic bags…and am now determined to implement this ban locally! Thank you for spreading the word!

  19. Matt Baker says:

    Awareness needs to increase. Recycling is great but uses energy. Re-using is much better. How about when you go to eat inside a fast food restaurant and order, say a Big Mac. Thirty seconds later, boom, your burger is done and is placed inside a protective carton. You then walk fifteen feet, sit down and have the inconvenience of taking the burger out of the box. Lifespan of box = roughly one minute….then is tossed in garbage. What a waste! Why did that burger need so much protection for one minute? I’m pretty sure we have the technology to create edible wrappers.

  20. Andrea Pantaleao says:


  21. Thanks for sharing this. I knew about it, and the amount of garbage that is piling up around the earth is disturbing to me. It’s one of the most challenging things for me about travel – I have a difficult time finding places that recycle. I was starting to give up hope, but this post will help me to recommit to doing better. I know that at least I can cut down on my plastic bag usage (and I get melancholy every time I have to throw away a yogurt container or something like that.)

    What solutions have you found for recycling while you travel?

    • Rachel, recycling in Central and South America is extremely limited, so we focus most of our efforts on reducing use of plastic. It’s very frustrating.

  22. Deby & Barry says:

    Yuck, that makes me so sad, and sick. At home we are really good but when we travel we find it more challenging to not use plastic. We are headed to Mexico next week and will use bottled water. Since you two are on the road traveling to areas where the water is questionable maybe you have some suggestions on other alternatives.

    • Since the water in most of these countries is not safe to drink, bottled water is often the only option. Buy the biggest containers you can and pour them down into a reusable bottle. You could also invest in a steri pen. That will allow you to drink out of the tap. Google it.

      love you guys

  23. Anonymous says:

    you got to be kidding me. that is insane! why isn’t that on the news every night? or ANY night?

  24. It’s been on the news for years.
    60 minutes:
    Hard to believe there’s people who don’t know about this.

  25. Cynthia Rouzee Franken says:

    I like Matt Baker’s idea of edible wrappers, considering it is about 30 seconds before tossing the wrapper. We could also be like nature and make biodegradeable wrappers (like the banana or the orange). And don’t get me started about those BOMB PROOF, IMPOSSIBLE TO OPEN massively huge plastic containers they have for phones, toys, and all sorts of contraptions that people buy – what a waste! The wrapper costs more than the item inside, and you just chuck it and ruin the environment! Bring on the biodegradeable plastic, or engineer a bacteria that eats plastic instead of engineering stuff to kill ourselves …

  26. Well I was happy before I read this.

    Now I am awake.

    Thank you for being who you are an doing what you do.

  27. Funny you should mention….We’re creating a mobile app and website that is trying to tackle just this. Where’s all the plastic in our oceans coming from? Us, our homes, our cars, our garbage cans turned over by raccoons. So, how ’bout if we address our stuff in the first place by reducing, reusing, fixing, repurposing, even before recycling. Our mobile app will connect you and your stuff with great options for keeping it out of landfills so we stop producing more products made out of plastic in the first place. If you’re interested in learning more, please come and support us (and spread the word) at

  28. great information. thank you for writing about this. it is sad that its come to this.

  29. Teri Hogan says:

    Thank you Tree for this post!I This is so important and people do have their heads buried in the plastic. I know all of this, but you put you did a great job of pulling alot of infomation together in a very understandable manner. I will repost to Facebook/
    Muchas gracias!

  30. Good job Tree,
    I think that time is critical in with this issue. We need to go straight to the Companies capable and lobby for a major change in the composition of plastics.
    It seems such an uphill battle, since everything is about money and change. Something the big companies avoid like pulling teeth. Like they say “it’s gonna take a village”
    One of my own personal challenges is there are so many things depleting the planet which do I tackle??
    Have you heard the question…. “How does one eat an elephant” One bite at a time. The one positive is anything I do I feel better than doing nothing!! Thanks for being an agent of awareness.

  31. Anonymous says:

    well written and scary as hell. I will pass it on. Thnk you

  32. thats fucking heavy ,,,i stop my boat to pick up or graff trash bags all the time,,,, pray for the sea

  33. Anonymous says:

    That’s fucked! I read somewhere that most of the plastic is so small it’s hard to see but once you get close it’s all tiny pieces of plastic everywhere! So fucked up what we do to our beautiful oceans and all the animals and creatures that live in them

  34. As an ocean lover, this breaks my heart. Very cool that you cover these kinds of topics, will definitely pass this one along. Thanks Tree!

    • no worries. I’m sure you guys saw the beach in Huanchaco, plus plenty of others. It’s super depressing.

  35. Great research and article!!! I’d like your permission to lift your post in it’s entirety and repost it to my blog and my Facebook account. I will, of course, give reference to your blog. This message needs to get out.

    Thanks so much–Pat

  36. Chris Boland says:

    Horrible..I was in the Navy for 5 years on a ship with several hundred guys and we bagged up all the trash and just threw it over the side several times a just killed me. Imagine that times thousands of ships on the water..

  37. Alexis Collette Mobley says:

    Yep, they outed bags here in the LBC….they should just do that everywhere already!

  38. hey guys, just saw this new post. OMG, that is sad, scary, pitiful, lame,… so many things. Thanks for posting about it

  39. Anonymous says:

    truly amazing. I see it’s been shared on Facebook over 400 times. good work guys. keep at it, you are spreading awareness. Sam

  40. Dave Adair says:

    Thanks for the effort putting this together. I just saw this article about how much trash is washing up on Mexican beaches. Wow.,0,2261593.story

    Yeah it sickens me that were so Danm careless with our trash. It’s not that hard to walk our happy ass to a trash can and throw our shit away. I’ll be sitting in the line- up and paddle out of my way to stuff either a plastic bag, or what ever debre is floating around in my wetsuit. We need to seriously do something about this. AAAAAAARRRRRRRUUUUUGGGGGGGGHAAAAA…. That’s enough out of me I need to try and.get my blood pressure back down now… Haha.

  42. Just get some of the China fishing vessels with the huge nets, idle through and start making a dent, its, mainly their crap anyways.

    • here are some interesting facts pertaining to your comment…

      1) The man who discovered the garbage patch has noted, “Trying to clean up the Pacific gyre would bankrupt any country and kill wildlife in the nets as it went”. Regardless, scientists and activists are looking at ways to clean it up, but unless the flow of garbage is stopped at the source, cleanup is only a temporary solution.

      2) Most of the trash in the Pacific comes from the Americas, not Asia.

      3) With just 5 percent of the global population, the USA generates 30 percent of the world’s trash.

      4) The U.S. leads the world in garbage per capita at 4.6 pounds per day. Australia is a distant second at 2.7 pounds per day. Chinese only produce 0.7 pounds per person per day.

      5) America’s biggest trade export to China is “Scrap and Trash.” According to data provided by the U.S. International Trade Commission, Chinese imports of U.S. trash surged by 916 percent over the 2000-2008 period

      food for thought…

  43. Anonymous says:

    I learned about this 4-5yrs ago. It is why I stopped buying plastic bottles, plastic bags and other non-biodegradable items. It is actually really easy to get rid of those things in your life. However, it is really hard to never buy anything that comes wrapped in plastic. At least here in the USA that is.

  44. Anonymous says:

    good work crew. thanks for reporting

  45. Anonymous says:

    The thing about our current environmental policies is that if the crap doesn’t surface in Malibu, Santa Monica or La Jolla, it doesn’t count.

  46. The only real way to change this is to find a way to make recycling profitable (and I don’t mean passing a law to make it ‘profitable’). In our not so distant past Cokes and milk came in glass which was returned to the bottler, cleaned and re-used. The reason for the change to throw-aways is DOLLARS plain and simple.

    How much plastic is contained in (or used in the production of) the products that we use to be more responsible? The reusable shopping bag that you carry to the grocery, the filter that you use on your home faucet, even long lasting items like salt shakers and kitchen utensils. Someday it will all end up in the vortex.

    I understand that it would be dangerous to sea life to harvest the vortex but not harvesting it is dangerous too. A serious study should be done to see what the costs and returns would be to harvest a trawler full of trash and recycle it. I realize that there will be plant and animal life mixed in and a certain amount of sea water that will end up in the hold (they are mostly containers after all). But on the plus side, it’s all just sitting there waiting to be harvested, it’s not going anywhere.

  47. We need to pitch this article to National Geographic and Blue Legacy
    This is the fourth time I’ve read this post and I refuse to give up. There must be a way.

    • Yes, we must not give up! We have to educate enough people to create change. An article in either of those places would be amazing exposure. So is Facebook. This post was shared on FB over 700 times on the main page and 500 times on this comments page. That means it entered the newsfeed of 1200. The average number of friends on facebook is 200ish. So that means this had an exposure of 240,000 people. Pretty amazing.

      • Hi Tree

        Thanks for this stunning article… I spent many hours in the summer wading London’s tidal Thames at low tide – filled my vest and landing net countless times with plastic and materials that washed past me or were left on the shore… I wish to acknowledge and salute your efforts and likewise those of the many selfless toilers who do their best to keep the natural environment tidy. I will never give up and I do predict that we will eventually get to the tipping point – keep persisting! – metiefly

  48. Que horror…..

  49. Gracias parcero…

  50. Thank you. Seeing folks read this who wouldn’t ordinarily is heartening. I read this week that Curitiba recycles a huge (like 70?) percent of their trash.

    I say no to plastic. Even bio plastic will send unwanted chemicals into the soup that is the ocean. We should see a return to glass. And the end of wrapping every square inch of new product shipments in plastic, even the new wood one buys at Lowe’s.

    Thank you, Tree! I’d like to hug you!

    • Yes. you understand the issue wonderfully.. refillable glass is the solution.. a global standard on refillables that get used dozens of times before finally being recycled

  51. Nice post, but please reassess your opinion that ” biodegradable” plastics are the solution.. this is plastics industry propaganda, these plastics will lead to a plastic pollution epidemic, with people believing it’s ok to litter them. They don’t degrade adequately in the natural environment and still pose entanglement and ingestion risks to wildlife. These plastics also allow a continuation of wasteful and polluting disposable design.
    The true solution lies in abandoning disposable and moving to reusable systems. Germany’s refillable bottling system is a prime example.. zero plastic pollution and minimal carbon footprint.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree. I love it that Tree has brought this huge problem to people’s attention, but the idea of pushing for biodegradable plastics scares me. Even newspapers, buried in a landfill, will fail to decompose, many years after their publication. Evidently, if you dug deep enough, due to the lack of oxygen, you could still read papers from the 1930s. I just read this in a book, The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman. Saltwater also inhibits decomposition. We need to think about how food was packaged before WW2: and the answer would be glass and metal. If you’re buying produce and bulk foods, you can bring your own container. We need to change the way that we’ve been conditioned — which is to be consuming machines.

  52. I heard about this some time ago and it is appalling what we are doing to our oceans not to mention lakes and rivers. I did not know where to start and glad to see other people now know about it – thank you Tree. There must be something we can do not just recycling which is great and plastic are an issue but what about large salvage operations to clean up what is there already. I know it cost money and lots of it. There must be a person or persons out there with money who is looking to help. If enough people got together and started a group or organization maybe things could slowly happen. I’m sure this will take years but at starting is the key not just talking. I agree this should be in the media all the time, out of sight out of mind (TV, education, schools, universities, magazines like McLeans etc, etc.). I agree with Dixson’s comment. I’m on board with this.

  53. Capt Haddock says:

    Tree has gone to much trouble to set out these very negative facts.
    The best way to reward Tree is to action these two requests from me:
    1] Take on board Tree’s very important message and dispose of your rubbish safely.
    2] Forward this data and message to our politicians, world leaders, industrialists, our boat operators, and all of our other water users, the former being the most important target, after all, we vote them in to act in the best interests of all of us.
    We need more people like Tree.
    Tree, along with others spreading awareness of this terrible “yet reversible” state of affairs, should be congratulated!

  54. Thank you for u guys for sharing this!

  55. Thank you for u guys sharing this!

  56. Anonymous says:

    Would Pin this if it had a Pin button! Everyone needs to see this!

  57. Anonymous says:

    We all need to pray about this.

  58. great website! had to make a magazine article about garbage patches… Was of great help!! 🙂 and we must definitely sread the info!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  59. mallisia says:

    this is cool

  60. What a wake up call, I’m definitely sharing this!
    It’s a horrible situation!!!!!!!!
    Thanks for sharing

  61. The last time I checked, the packaging industry spent 500 million dollars annually lobbing against legislation coming out of Washington that would restrict, curtail or reduce its wanton output. Legislation is a part tthe answer.

  62. Why nobody digs off this trash, and recycle it? Is it bad better for the economy to buy recycle trash from other countries? And it must be very economic for the ships to drive around the huge patches. Or do they want to support the oil industry? Sorry! I don’t get it! Maybe I’m too dumb for the economic system.

  63. Why are none of the world governments concerned about cleaning this up? i think all the govts around the Pacific should band together and spend millions of dollars cleaning this up. Whatever it takes.
    Whatever it takes.
    People are inventing machines to do this huge cleaning job. Get the machines out there where the sludge piles are, see what works, and GET GOING on CLEANING the OCEAN!!!!

  64. I have heard about this Floating mass of rubbish for years now but have never seen 1 photo of it in existence? Why is this the case? Google earth could show it, Satellite photo’s would show it, Just going out there in a ship and photograph it would show it or even from an Aircraft, but still not one photo have I seen? Please explain someone?

    • Hi, please watch the videos at the bottom of this post. Here you will find your answer. Thanks

  65. Instead of fighting other countries wars and funding Obamacare, we should fix real problems like this.

  66. Biodegradable plastics are not the solution. Use your own water bottle. Reuse your grocery bags as trash bags. Take matters into your own hands instead of lobbying for corporations to make changes. Grass roots.

  67. And this happens all because of money

  68. Now add the huge amount of garbage from the Fukishima plant disaster and the problem gets much bigger. Like the post said about the Cambodians throwing their Styrofoam lunch containers into the river, this will never be resolved. Asian and middle east countries, ( china, malaysia, Indonesia, and india aren’t doing anything about industrial water or air pollution, and they don’t care. Nothing will change that…

  69. WHY is this boy’s invention NOT being utilised yet? There was that Australian yachtie who also commented on the state of the ocean a while ago, ( and I researched and got his personal email address, I emailed him the link about the boy’s invention, he didn’t even bother to reply, even though in the Herald article he said: “More immediately, he will approach the organisers of Australia’s major ocean races, trying to enlist yachties into an international scheme that uses volunteer yachtsmen to monitor debris and marine life.” Let’s hope the boys’ invention actually makes it to the oceans.

  70. I stopped to look at this post and then got into reading Stevie’s recovery essay and the beautiful baby and loved it all. Just wanted to say thank you.

  71. Reminds me of the first time I went to California. What a dump.

    • I’m from Laguna Beach, California and I can tell you our beaches are some of the cleanest in the country, don’t know where you were but I assure you most people in California care about the environment. You are not allowed to smoke ciggs on our beaches and if you leave your trash it’s a $1,000.00 fine. California is anything but a DUMP. >:(

  72. Why hasn’t the media done a story on this? I have heard of this but never seen it in the news. The world should know. It’s past time to do something about it. A NATO team from multiple nations perhaps to clean it up? We’ve made great strides to reduce “heavy metals” like mercury and lead from the environment / food chain. It’s time to wake up to the dangers of these floating toxins we call plastic.

  73. Thank you for educating us, Tree. Once we know better we an start to do better. Will def’ly pass this along. GBU!

  74. Jani Komulainen says:

    Isn’t part of the problem that plastic in the ocean gathers PCB in the environment. Once is gets into the food chain, people are affected as well,

  75. We need to find a commercial use for the waste we have produced so it is a viable proposition to go out and get it and reuse it. If it was gold floating out there it wouldn’t be there long.

  76. What the... says:

    I live in South Africa on the Indian Ocean, when I go the beach I walk down it and pick up trash, by the time I find a trash can my arms are full, it’s endless…it’s not only plastic, it’s everything from toys to foam coolers, my biggest pet peeve is PEOPLE WHO LITTER WITH THEIR CIGARETTE BUTTS! People, the fish and birds pick those cancer sticks up because they think it’s food. Stop littering and please throw your butts in the trash. The foktards here think the beach is their trash can, they come with all their shit and leave it in the sand when they decide to pack up. They take their bratty kids but leave their garbage! I swear some humans just don’t give a shit!!!

  77. I spent a few weeks in Talum, Mexico a few years ago and was so impressed with the Mayan peoples awareness of the importance of sustainable waste managment. They are very dedicated to keeping their land and waters clean~~ my friend and i while walking out on a wild peninsula saw a 3 foot high mound of plastic bottle lids, we asked the locals about it, they said it is disgusting, the cruise ships all throw their garbage over board and much of it floats to shore. The bottle lids are made of a tougher plastic, the bottles themselves will fill up with water and sink or break down. We also saw mounds of pampers, condoms, bags and tampon applicators!!! I have known about the coastal cities using the ocean as their garbage dumps, shipping barges of garbage out to sea for decades now! Wonder if that is still happening? as well as raw, unfiltered, untreated sewage ! WOW thats how the plague got started in the middle ages !!!

  78. I think most of the people who put this garbage in the ocean will not ever know what they are responsible for because they are poor and uninformed.For all of us in non coastal parts of North America our garbage stays on land. It doesn’t really matter what we consume it does not get to the ocean. It all comes from coastal cities and when you consider it’s only in the past decade or so that Halifax (a city one might assume to be of high standards) stopped dumping their raw excrement right into their own harbor it’s not hard to imagine third world impoverished countries having no standards of control.That’s who we have to educate and assist. All the billions that are doled out globally could be tied to this issue so that in order to receive charity a portion of it would have to go to waste management.

  79. The legitimate and necessary cause of environmentalism is harmed, more than helped, by alarmist blogs like this which misstate facts and publish misleading photos in efforts to support their theses.

    Any garbage found in our environment, including our oceans, is a tragedy and we should do whatever we reasonably can to mitigate it. Still, intentionally misleading people in an effort to prompt action is, I believe, not the path of wisdom but, rather, of ignorance and propaganda.

  80. Frank in Surfside, CA says:

    I live on the beach, so I see the crap that washes up on shore every single day, and I pick up what only one person can pick up. Yes, much of it originates from our own inland runoffs, but so much of it floats in from the ocean itself that it boggles the mind.

    I think ‘John’ is the ignorant one here if he believes that ‘Tree’ is misleading people with “alarmist facts, photos and propaganda”. Do your research and you’ll find that those ‘rubbish soup patches’ are real; the North Pacific Gyre currents are real, dead sea birds and fish with plastic fishing line wrapped around them are real, seals dead from swallowing plastic bottles are real, and unfortunately ignorance is very real too.

    Thank you Tree for taking the time to keep this never ending battle of keeping the public aware moving along. Maybe next time you hear from me I can supplement my comments with some of my own ‘alarmist propaganda photos’ from right here in Surfside, CA. Keep the faith, and FIGHT ON !!!

  81. Agree about prevention but If it is all going to one point why are we not loading it onto ships and taking it to be recycled? Use the arms budget of every country for six months to finance it.

  82. I concur the problem is real, but the target is broad…but the predominantly US audience reading will vote to effect those that contribute the least. The result is self constriction in attempt to effect a result that the US is primarily not to blame.
    Just as we constrict ourselves in every other manner, we end up hurting ourselves in the final grasps to solve an issue that we barely contribute to.

    I cleaned my uncles beach in AS, the majority of trash is not US derived.
    “About 20% of the junk is thrown off ships or oil platforms. Ship-generated pollution is a source of concern, since a typical 3,000-passenger cruise ship produces over eight tons of waste weekly, a major amount of which ends up in the patch. ”
    Me thinks this is written w/ no regard for much regulation that Rigs and liners face under any hint of US regulation.
    “The other 80% of the garbage comes from land-based sources.

    Rivers carry garbage out to sea, which then makes its way into the patch. Currents carry debris from the west coast of North America”
    Really? what percentage exactly? This broad brush surly will spur reactions… And here we are thinking the left coast is the most attuned to nature. They must learn to vote away all potential jetsam. More regulation please.
    These types of expose’ have value, but w/o proper analysis the wide net catches those that not only do not contribute, but seek solutions. Once regulated to obscurity we can do little to entice the real contributors to join us in the hell bent degradation of our social, fiscal stature.

    If this is to be circulated for effect…it need not be in English.

  83. Nancy Lazar says:

    Tree if you can reply to my email address that would be great as I design postage stamps for governments and feel the need to put this on a stamp. I would like more info and photos. I can do this and it should be done as this is a shame,. pity, disgusting, stupidity and plain laziness for not taking action. The US breast cancer stamp raised awareness plus $80million dollars…. I can definitely raise awareness and get this on my 7 countries and I have enough contact to get this on countries…. LET ME TRY PLEASE CONTACT ME!

  84. There was a young lad who had invested a ‘boom’ to clear this rubbish, but I never heard what became of it. Perhaps no country will take responsibility. A job for the UN.

  85. Anonymous says:

    If you want to help, check out

  86. Jesper Brandt says:

    There’s a great documentary about this subject:

  87. Thanks Tree for sharing this! When my now husband and I sailed to Hawaii > 10 yrs ago the amount of plastic floating @ sea was appalling and we were not in the “dead zone”. Now my work takes me all over the world where simply there are few, or no, options to deal w/ trash (plastic, wrappings, cans, etc.), its ubiquitous…. Some 20 or so, or maybe less, years ago many of the developing countries I’ve worked in didn’t have “trash” to deal with, now they are bombarded with it. Here is a great film on the subject – . Here is one program that started in Haiti to deal w/ the problem of plastic trash as well as unemployment/poverty… . I don’t know much abt the project, but my last trip there the “big bags of plastic” along the road side ready to be picked up were a frequent site. A start… to a major problem. If everyone could start w/ just a few actions of a) not using plastic water bottles (really its easy – I work internationally and I only use maybe 1-2 a year!), b) working to ban plastic water bottles in the US (or in the case of Oregon – at least make them returnable for $ to incentives their proper disposal), c) stop using plastic bags at the grocery store – it would make a big impact…much more is needed…but gotta start somewhere!!

  88. I’ll help this crisis no matter what

  89. Anonymous says:

    With every post like this, you are making a difference. Think about it… every person that sees your post, will pass it along to another person, and so on and so on. There are a lot of people out there that have good hearts but forget, or don’t realize, the significance of their actions. Posts like this keep the information right in front of us and remind us to make better choices. Keep it up!! I’ll be passing it on.

  90. Robert Fugate says:

    Unfortunately, most people will view this as a post from “tree hugging hippies”. I just don’t understand why people don’t see the damage this is causing the environment.

    Life scout.
    BSA troop 246

  91. Envirosailor says:

    I’m as big as an environmentalist as anyone, but are these pictures genuine? This link says the person in the canoe is in Manila:

  92. Really interesting information and photos shared. I’m volunteering in Bolivia with an environmental charity and it’s devastating to see countries like Bolivia suffering the effects of Western consumerism. Really scary too! How to make people care, take responsibility and take action! That’s the question!!

  93. I was in the navy 5 years, 82-87. I won’t get to elaborate here but about twice a day yeah bags as far as the eye can see thrown off the fan-tail. The military, our government does a huge amount of business with large companies like Pepsi and coke. We could surely through our government affect some change here in the types of materials used in bottling. That could be huge. Anyhow in off to get a filtered water cooler. At about 400 bucks, it could pay for itself in one year judging by the amount of bottles we go through in that amount of time. Wish us luck.

    • Good on you guys! We used to drink bottled water, but now we have a water filtration system in the van, plus we use a Brita,and when we made the switch, I was amazed by how much less plastic we consumed. Good luck to you, and thank you for commenting.

  94. I think that I am cool and this is the oppisite of cool
    If saw this then I would probaly die

  95. the dude in the canoe is known to be bogus but the point is well taken – plastic is a serious problem, particularly microscopic pieces

  96. See back in the early 30’s a very powerful group of the worlds most influential businessmen came to a conclusion. They could not keep up with Hemp on a industrial level. In fact Hemp completely dominated in every aspect of business.(including environmental impacts) But because of maintaining their business interests, they decided to forge a group and create the Marijuana Prohibition Act. See Doug Thorley’s Marijuana conspiracy for details…

  97. All concerned, including me. From the pictures and blogs I see a very serious ecological disaster here. There are many things that we as humans can do this very moment to curve this “somewhat “. For starters everyone here can balance their individual plastic consumption, e; g, stop using plastics, this way we immediately become part of a solution. The hamburger wrapper Issue, I may have a solution for that one. I will disclose details via email. R/Mark W

    • Can’t agree more. We use reusable grocery, produce and snack bags, and use a water filter instead of buying plastic bottles. I also try and buy my daughter toys made from wood, cloth, and paper instead of plastic.

  98. This is a huge situation which can only be managed by many different approaches. Recycling is nice, but by now, I think we all realize it’s not helping matters much. There has got to be a way to make biodegradable “plastic”. I don’t see any other way. Second, I’d like to see the taxes I pay for our army corps of engineers to get out there and clean it up, or some kind of joint effort between countries. Third, we should have to pay a recycling tax on bottles, that would be refunded at the point of recycling. Fourth, there need to be more state of the art recycling centers and in more locations.

    We are all responsible on some scale for the state the planet has come to. We shouldn’t blame ourselves too much, because this is all part of the evolution of this world. I think we all feel depressed that we live in this world, at this time. I hope we can fix it, if it has gone too far, mother nature will sort it out.

    I grew up in a world of material discovery, where all this material stuff was exciting and new. Now, I think most of what I own is just junk, and I am more careful about what I buy. I think a lot more about the amount of energy and waste used to make things and the thought of them sitting in a land fills before I buy. I also try to buy/sell used items. Being conditioned for so long, it is hard, I recently fell into a trap of buying a foam mattress. I did some research later and found I could have bought a natural latex one instead. To me, this is what the future is all about, doing the very best we can to NOT buy things that are made with chemicals or are irresponsibly manufactured. It is very hard for me to buy food without plastic, especially since I have a family to feed.

    One more idea, a plastic disposal? like a garbage disposal? grind it up into little bits, but then what do you do with the little bits ??

  99. Tax the rich, clean up the oceans and switch to paper packaging

  100. Anonymous says:


  101. liz Tompkins ( canada) says:

    Hi Tree,

    I re-read this post this morning as the headline caught my eye. I’m here in Cambodia travelling in SE Asia with my husband and two teenagers for a year. The trash problem in Cambodia is completely out of control and depressing. The rivers are full to the point that you can feel heat coming off them. The streets are lined with plastic. Even their national treasure, Angkor Wat, is a garbage dump! You don’t see that on any National Geographic documentaries about this stunning place. Locals literally leave their garbage behind wherever they create it. Every purchase goes into a plastic bag. Water bottles go into a plastic bag so the condensation doesn’t drip on you. Locals give us a funny look when we say “no plastic” when we are shopping. You are right, it is depressing. Education of the younger generation is the answer but I am afraid that will take too long. Ex-pats i have spoken to here think it will take at least two generations for any kind of education to turn into action. UGH.

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