Wednesday, 24 May 2017

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

Elle Hunt

Monday 15 May 2017 20.00 BST Last modified on Tuesday 16 May 2017 09.04 BST 

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.

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.

“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.

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