No One Even Lives On This Remote Island, But It’s Covered In Our Trash

It would seem that a remote, uninhabited island in the South Pacific Ocean would be a pristine environment without any sign of human damage, but scientists have found that it’s covered in our trash. In fact, it has the highest density of plastic debris recorded anywhere in the world.

According to a study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the beaches of Henderson Island, which is located in the UK’s Pitcairn Islands group, is littered with an estimated 37.7 million pieces of plastic debris, weighing more than 17 tons.

Even more horrifying, according to the study, is that the 17 tons of debris present on the island accounts for only 1.98 seconds’ worth of the annual global production of plastic.

The island is more than 3,000 miles away from any city, and is only visited once or twice every decade by scientists conducting research, but the study’s authors believe its location near the South Pacific Gyre has made a graveyard for debris being carried by currents.

“What’s happened on Henderson Island shows there’s no escaping plastic pollution even in the most distant parts of our oceans,” said lead author Dr. Jennifer Lavers, a researcher at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania. “Far from being the pristine ‘deserted island’ that people might imagine of such a remote place, Henderson Island is a shocking but typical example of how plastic debris is affecting the environment on a global scale.

More concerning is that their estimate is believed to be lower than the actual amount of debris there, because anything 10 centimeters below the surface on beaches wasn’t counted, and neither was debris on cliff areas and the rocky part of the coastlines.

Researchers found items ranging from lighters and toothbrushes to toy soldiers, plastic silverware, water bottles, garden containers, Monopoly game pieces to fishing gear. Some labels allowed them to identify items from as far away as China, Japan, South America, Europe, the U.S. and Russia.

Sadly, the island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site, is home to an array of species who continue to be threatened by an estimated 3,500 pieces of trash that are arriving on the island’s shores daily.

“Plastic debris is an entanglement and ingestion hazard for many species, creates a physical barrier on beaches to animals such as sea turtles, and lowers the diversity of shoreline invertebrates, ” added Dr. Lavers. “Research has shown that more than 200 species are known to be at risk from eating plastic, and 55 per cent of the world’s seabirds, including two species found on Henderson Island, are at risk from marine debris.”

Hopefully more studies like this, and major beach cleanups, will help inspire more people to reconsider our use of plastic, especially when it comes to single-use items, and will also encourage the development of better waste management systems to keep so much garbage from ending up in waterways.

Photo credit: Dr. Jennifer Lavers

83 comments

Camilla V
Camilla Vaga2 months ago

that is a disaster

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ERIKA S
ERIKA SOMLAI2 months ago

it's another catastroph.....footprints are everywhere in the world from the human being

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william Miller
william Miller2 months ago

thanks

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Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O2 months ago

Frustratingly most commenters just see this as THE problem... not the fact that this rubbish floated and keeps floating to these shores daily from many countries around the world.... But how does that happen..? We the people continue to use and throw away our plastic junk daily without a single thought as to where it could end up! We need to stop blaming everybody else and start cleaning up our wastage habits at home right now..!...Flagged Robin R 10 times in a row on this post...!

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Rosslyn O
Rosslyn O2 months ago

What disgustingly filthy creatures humanity is for the most part. No other species has destroyed their environment like humans, it makes me feel ashamed at what we have done. Yet humans have this notion that they are superior to all other inhabitants on this planet???

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ERIKA S
ERIKA SOMLAI2 months ago

it's another catastroph.....footprints are everywhere in the world from the human being

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RONALD Walker
RONALD Walker2 months ago

I have come to the conclusion that my grandkid will be fighting plastic after I die. I remember when the news came out how great plastic will make our lives in the late 1950's and early 1906's. Now I don't believe anything the oil companies say today. Sorry Earth what we have done to you!!!

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Jetana A
Jetana A2 months ago

There goes our dream of living on a remote Pacific island! Seriously, this is just so gross. People are slobs, and manufacturers are addicted to plastic and packaging.

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Peggy B
Peggy B2 months ago

Since it doesn't degrade so could be years old plastic with the new.

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Barbara P
Barbara P2 months ago

People are slobs, without a doubt. There are 2 areas in my city that I walk past and all I see is litter, lots and lots of litter...especially disposable cups. With that in mind, I can see why so much trash ends up in places like this. I think something really needs to be done about the people...maybe some good stiff fines for littering is a necessary evil.

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