38 Million Pieces of Plastic Waste Found on Uninhabited South Pacific island

Henderson Island, part of the Pitcairn group, is covered by 18 tonnes of plastic – the highest density of anthropogenic debris recorded anywhere in the world

One of the world’s most remote places, an uninhabited coral atoll, is also one of its most polluted.

Henderson Island, a tiny landmass in the eastern South Pacific, has been found by marine scientists to have the highest density of anthropogenic debris recorded anywhere in the world, with 99.8% of the pollution plastic.

The nearly 18 tonnes of plastic piling up on an island that is otherwise mostly untouched by humans have been pointed to as evidence of the catastrophic, “grotesque” extent of marine plastic pollution.

Nearly 38m pieces of plastic were estimated to be on Henderson by researchers from the University of Tasmania and the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, weighing a combined 17.6 tonnes.

38 million pieces of plastic waste found on uninhabited South Pacific island 1
One of many hundreds of crabs that now make their homes out of plastic debris washed up on Henderson Island in the Pitcairn island group. This particular item is an Avon cosmetics jar. Photograph | Jennifer Lavers

The majority of the debris – approximately 68% – was not even visible, with as many as 4,500 items per square metre buried to a depth of 10cm. About 13,000 new items were washing up daily.

Jennifer Lavers, of the University of Tasmania’s institute for marine and antarctic studies, told the Guardian the sheer volume of plastic pollution on Henderson had defied her expectations.

“I’ve travelled to some of the most far-flung islands in the world and regardless of where I’ve gone, in what year, and in what area of the ocean, the story is generally the same: the beaches are littered with evidence of human activity …

“However, my thought was the remarkable remoteness of Henderson Island would have afforded it some protection. I was totally wrong.

38 million pieces of plastic waste found on uninhabited South Pacific island 3“The quantity left me speechless and that’s why I went to such pains to document it in such detail.”

Lavers found hundreds of crabs living in rubbish such as bottle caps and cosmetics jars, and has been told of one living inside a doll’s head.

“From the looks on people’s faces, it was quite grotesque,” she said. “That was how I felt about all these crabs – we are not providing them a home, this is not a benefit to them.

“This plastic is old, it’s brittle, it’s sharp, it’s toxic. It was really quite tragic seeing these gorgeous crabs scuttling about, living in our waste.”

The largest of the four islands of the Pitcairn Island group, Henderson Island is a Unesco World Heritage Listed site and one of the few atolls in the world whose ecology has been practically untouched by humans.

The island exhibits remarkable biological diversity given it covers only 3,700 hectares, with 10 endemic species of plant and four land bird species. Its isolation had, until recently, afforded it protection from most human activities.

38 million pieces of plastic waste found on uninhabited South Pacific island 2

See also | World’s Largest Beach Cleanup Removes 5.3 MILLION Kg Of Trash And Now It Looks Transformed

Lavers said her findings had proved to her nowhere was safe from plastic pollution. “All corners of the globe are already being impacted.”

Like seabirds and turtles, remote islands serve as sentinels for the health of the wider marine ecosystem, “acting like a sieve or a trap, filtering out the ocean”, she said.

The state of Henderson – “the most polluted, most remote island in the whole world” – was indicative of the extent of the problem, and the “absolutely mind-boggling” rate at which plastic was being produced globally.

The 17.6 tonnes of plastic on Henderson accounted for only 1.98 seconds’ worth of annual production, found the paper – co-written by Lavers with Alexander Bond – published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.

“Across the board, no country got a free pass on this – we found bottles from Germany, containers from Canada, I think it was a fishing crate from New Zealand. What that says is we all have a responsibility in this, and we have to sit up and pay attention to that.”

The threat to biodiversity posed by plastic debris has come under increased scrutiny as findings reveal the extent of the problem, with millions of tonnes ending up in the ocean every year.

38 million pieces of plastic waste found on uninhabited South Pacific island
North West beach on Henderson Island looking pristine in a Unesco image, but the remote atoll’s beaches are littered with tonnes of plastic. Photograph | Ron Van Oers/Unesco

In February, scientists reported “extraordinary” levels of toxic pollution in the Mariana trench, with plastic waste facilitating the spread of industrial chemicals to one of the most remote and inaccessible places on the planet.

At the world oceans summit in early March, Indonesia pledged to put up to $1bn a year towards reducing plastic and other waste products polluting its waters, setting a goal of a 70% reduction in marine waste within eight years.

Laver said individuals and governments had a part to play in reducing the amount of plastic polluting the world’s oceans, but the key was urgency.

“For me, marine plastic pollution is the new climate change, but I would like for us to not make the same mistakes. We’ve been arguing about climate change, and whether it exists and what is changing, for the better part of 40 years …

“Let’s not wait for more science. Let’s not debate it. The rate of plastic in our oceans is absolutely phenomenal, and we need to do something now.”

Find us here

Get news from the CSGLOBE in your inbox each weekday morning

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors/source and do not necessarily reflect the position of CSGLOBE or its staff.

Paid content

China Is Turning The Rainforest Into Cheap Furniture For The U.S.

Driven by American demand for cheap furniture, China has become the greatest importer of illegal timber. The...

France Declares All New Rooftops Must Be Topped With Plants Or Solar Panels

A new law recently passed in France mandates that all new buildings that are built in commercial zones in France must be partially covered in...

California is about to become the first state in the US to require solar power installations on all new homes

The world's fifth largest economy —and possibly the first government in the world—is about to require solar panels for all new homes. The California Energy...

What's New Today

Georgia House Votes To Allow Citizens To Abolish Police Departments In The State

The Georgia House backed an effort on Friday to dissolve the Glynn County Police Department and any...

Leaked CDC document contradicts Pence claim that U.S. coronavirus cases ‘have stabilized’

Even as Vice President Mike Pence wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published Tuesday that coronavirus...

Five bombshells about Trump from Bolton ‘s book

Excerpts from former national security adviser John Bolton ’s book about his time in the Trump administration...

Don’t Listen to Fox. Here’s What’s Really Going On in Seattle’s Protest Zone.

It seems I live in a city undergoing a “totalitarian takeover” that will lead to “fascist outcomes”...

MOST READ

What Is Agenda 21? Depopulation of 95% of the World By 2030

Most people are unaware that one of the greatest threats to their freedom may be a United Nations program which plans to depopulate 95%...

Putin has Banned Rothschild and His New World Order Banking Cartel Family from Entering Russian Territory

As of recently, Russian president Vladimir Putin took yet another decision for his country. "Under any circumstances", the Rothschild family is banned from entering Russian territory. Along...

Georgia House Votes To Allow Citizens To Abolish Police Departments In The State

The Georgia House backed an effort on Friday to dissolve the Glynn County Police Department and any...

China Is Turning The Rainforest Into Cheap Furniture For The U.S.

Driven by American demand for cheap furniture, China has become the greatest importer of illegal timber. The...

Leonardo DiCaprio Throws $7 Million Into the Ocean

Leonardo DiCaprio gives $7 million to save the world's oceans Leonardo DiCaprio, an actor best known for his roles in Titanic and Catch Me If...

Monsanto’s Glyphosate Linked to the Death of our Oceans and Coral Reefs

Monsanto’s glyphosate, aka Roundup, is the most heavily used agricultural chemical in history, with some 3.5 billion plus gallons of the herbicide being used...

New School In Vietnam Has Massive Garden On Its Roof And Teaches Sustainability

A creative and revolutionary new school in Vietnam has been constructed with a massive garden on its roof. The school also offers special classes on...

Tesla Now Taking Orders For Solar Roof Panels That Come With An Infinity Warranty

A solar roof on your home is quite compelling, I’d say. Tech giant Elon Musk announced yesterday on Twitter that orders could begin for...

Elon Musk Magically Extends the Battery Life of Tesla Vehicles Fleeing Hurricane Irma

In what is either a generous act of charity or an unnerving example of the control Tesla exercises over the vehicles it producers, or perhaps both,...

Idolizing Desire

Our whole civilization is based upon idolizing desire! The ‘consumer society’ we live in teaches us to idolize desire – our whole civilization is based...

Assange: Clinton & ISIS funded by same money, Trump won’t be allowed to win

In the second excerpt from the John Pilger Special, courtesy of Dartmouth Films, Julian Assange accuses Hillary Clinton of misleading Americans about the true...