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Trash Island: This Remote Pacific Isle Found With 32 Million Pieces of Plastic Litter

May 16, 2017 05:44 AM EDT
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This is paradise lost. Uninhabited and 3,000 miles away from anywhere else, one would think Henderson Island a beautiful haven untouched by human waste.

Not so. According to a report from Phys Org, the UNESCO World Heritage Site was found to be polluted with the highest density of plastic debris ever discovered anywhere in the planet. The beaches of Henderson Island is littered with up to 671 items per square meter, the highest ever recorded. The trash adds up to an estimated 37.7 million pieces of plastic.

The team, led by the British nature conservation charity RSPB, sampled five sites and found that over 17 tonnes of garbage have accumulated on Henderson Island. More than 3,570 new pieces of litter wash up every day just on one beach alone.

Lead author Dr. Jennifer Lavers explained that the garbage on Henderson Island proves that even in the most remote corners of the ocean, there's no avoiding the steadily increasing plastic pollution that litters waters worldwide.

"It's likely that our data actually underestimates the true amount of debris on Henderson Island as 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," Lavers said.

Over 300 million tonnes of plastic is annually produced worldwide, most of which are not recycled. It's nature of being bouyant and durable means that this type of plastic will be a long-term threat in the ocean.

"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," Lavers explained, adding that more than 200 species are at risk from eating plastic.

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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