Sunday, 25 June, 2017

Remote Pacific island turns into dump with 38 million pieces of trash

Henderson Island in the South Pacific is thousands of miles from any major industrial centers or human communities. But it's filled with trash — more than 37 million pieces of it researchers say View Slideshow
Derrick Tucker | 17 May, 2017, 02:20

Henderson Island in the South Pacific has been found to host hundreds of pieces of plastic per square meter of beach, with even more items buried in the sand.

The study, published by Tasmania's Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) found that the beaches of the World Heritage-listed Henderson Island contained 37.7 million pieces of debris.

"An estimated 37.7 million debris items weighing a total of 17.6 tons are now present on Henderson", with more pieces washing up every day, according to the researchers.

"The density of debris is the highest recorded anywhere in the world, suggesting that remote islands close to oceanic plastic accumulation zones act as important sinks for some of the waste accumulated in these areas", said Jennifer Lavers, of the University of Tasmania.

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

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CEO and founder of marine wildlife conservation organisation Sea Shepherd, Captain Paul Watson, said in response to the report that he has witnessed plastic pollution in every remote island he has been to, warning that "the horror of plastic is real". Because of its location and the movement of those currents, the island naturally becomes a repository for floating debris from around the world - despite not being home to a single human. Uninhabited for most of its history and only visited by scientists once a decade or so, Henderson Island should be completely untouched by humanity.

However the 3,700 hectare island unfortunately happens to be near the centre of the South Pacific Gyre, a circular ocean current that collects man-made debris from South America and rubbish dumped by fishing boats.

No humans live on Henderson Island, part of the Pitcairn Islands that are British territories in the southern Pacific Ocean. There are now plastic hotspots like this in all of the major oceans.

MIAMI, one of the most remote islands of the planet is getting polluted with the highest density of plastic particles, having more than 3,500 pieces getting washed up daily, as per the reports and as the researchers said this Monday. Pull Henderson Island up on Google Maps and drag the yellow avatar to the bottom of the eastern beach.

Experts say such findings underline the importance of properly managing plastic litter at its source, and preventing it from entering the ocean through storm drains or poor waste management practises. Lavers said the amount of plastic in the oceans appalled her so much that she now uses both a toothbrush and iPhone carrying case that are made out of bamboo. 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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