An extended survey method to determine plastic rubbish in Port Phillip Bay

Dr Ross Headifen1

1Beachpatrol, Port Melbourne, Australia


This is a study on a daily tide line survey which was conducted over 365 days on a fixed 35 m long section of an urban beach of Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne, Australia.  The purpose of this study is two-fold: (1) to quantify daily rubbish washed in from the bay, and (2) to provide a framework to determine the amount of plastic rubbish present in the bay. The first aspect is done by recording over 12 broad categories such as bottles, bags and food wrappers to identify types of litter plus 3 additional generic categories for other plastic items sorted by size: greater than 50 mm, between 5mm and 50 mm and micro as less than 5 mm.  The second aspect of this experiment is to enable estimation of the amount of plastic in Port Phillip Bay.  By surveying the same 35 m section of beach every 24 hours, as well as recording the on-shore wind vector (direction and strength), the amount of plastic being divulged on this beach section per day is determined for that wind vector.  This was then extrapolated around the bay perimeter for all on-shore wind vectors to estimate how much plastic is being washed ashore every day around Port Phillip Bay. This study provides new insights into the quantity and inter-seasonal variation of plastic items within Port Phillip Bay. The methodology developed could here be used for other beach areas as well.


In 2012 Ross joined a small volunteer organisation called BeachPatrol that focused on cleaning beaches of litter in the Port Melbourne.  Most of this litter is plastic waste.  Using their business skills from the past 15 years, he and his wife thought they could expand BeachPatrol to many other regions.  As new people joined and shared the same goal, BeachPatrol grew across 22 post codes, covering almost all of the populated beaches around Port Phillip Bay.  He created a dynamic group website to show the weight of litter, the number of bottles/can removed from beaches and the number of volunteer hours being spent each month in doing this.  BeachPatrol has grown to be a large community based organisation with over 2000 volunteers that raises considerable awareness of the problem of litter on our beaches.