This Tiny Remote Island Is Getting Buried Under Plastic Trash

Lena Tucker
May 17, 2017

By looking at plastic debris washed up on the shores of islands, scientists can determine the origins of the plastic and its rate of accumulation - and this is what they did on Henderson.

The beach surfaces of the tiny British overseas territory of Henderson Island in the South Pacific have accumulated as 672 plastic items per square metre in the worst-hit areas - while up to 4,498 more pieces have sunk below the surface, an alarming new study shows.

With as many as 671 pieces of debris per square meter (about 62 pieces per square foot), Henderson Island has the densest plastic pollution ever recorded anywhere on Earth, the researchers said.

Uninhabited by humans, the island - part of the UK-owned Pitcairn Islands - has sadly been ruined by our activity, with an estimated 17 tonnes (37m pieces) of plastic debris deposited there.

"We were only able to sample pieces bigger than two millimetres down to a depth of 10 centimetres, and we were unable to sample along cliffs and rocky coastline".

Worldwide, an estimated 19.4 billion pounds of plastic wind up in the ocean each year, a 2015 study found.

Wildlife has seemingly adapted to the island's conditions, with a prime example being hundreds of crabs that now make their homes out of plastic debris.

The small spit of land - known as Henderson Island - is one of the most secluded islands in the world.

There's a lonely island in the Pacific Ocean that has no human inhabitants, yet it's completely covered in trash.

"What's happened on Henderson Island shows there's no escaping plastic pollution, even in the most distant parts of our oceans", Jennifer Lavers, the study's lead author and a researcher at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, said in a press release.

The rubbish landmass of which I speak isn't just a metaphor - it's also a real place, called Henderson Island.

About 27 percent of the items were identifiable as being from South America, including beach equipment and fishing gear.

A remote island in the South Pacific is the most polluted place on the planet, Australian research published on Tuesday revealed.

She said plastic was devastating to oceans because it was buoyant and durable.

Most are fragments of plastic, but common intact goods include plastic cutlery, bottles, bags, pens, straws, cigarette lighters, razors and toothbrushes, as well as fishing equipment such as buoys, nets and lines. This is a global problem requiring global solutions but the responsibility of the United Kingdom government is clear: "It must take concrete action to reduce the amount of plastic ending up in the sea", said Greenpeace oceans campaigner Ariana Densham. Everyone basically. The paper doesn't explicitly say this, but the millions of plastic debris on Henderson come from all over the world.

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