What would ordinarily be a pristine beach with no humans within 3100 miles is now a plastic garbage heap due to our plastic waste clogging the oceans.
The beaches of Henderson Island are littered with plastic razor blades, toothbrushes and scoops from containers of baby formula, coffee and laundry powder. Turtles get tangled in fishing wire. Land crabs make their homes in toxic plastic.
Despite sitting 3,100 miles from the nearest factory or human settlement, this South Pacific island is covered with the highest density of plastic debris ever recorded in the world for a beach, according to a report published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The team estimates 37.7 million pieces of plastic debris litter Henderson Island, exposing the extent to which the Earth’s nooks and crannies have become sinks for the 311 million tons of plastic waste created annually by humans.
“The human footprint is everywhere, and it runs deeper than most of us imagine,” Jennifer Lavers, a University of Tasmania marine scientist who led the study... “[Henderson Island] is a remarkably beautiful and unique place that is suffering immensely at the hands of humans that have never set foot on the island, never even heard its name.”
Lavers has traveled to some of the world’s most remote islands, but . . One day, she was looking at Google footage of Henderson Island and noticed significant quantities of trash on the island’s beaches. So in May 2015, she and her expedition team ventured to Henderson Island . . . The team spent four months calculating how much plastic filled Henderson Island’s beaches. . . . most of the plastics — 68 percent or up to 416 pieces per square foot — were buried in and concealed by the sand. . . .
“Documenting the extent of the problem on one of the most pristine islands left in the world presented an especially unique opportunity to highlight the seriousness and global nature of the plastic pollution issue,” Lavers said. “Henderson Island is not unique – plastic is, quite literally, everywhere.”
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