Every year eight million metric tonnes of plastic (think eight million x 1,000) is dumped into our ocean. That’s about 15 shopping bags filled to bursting for every metre of shore.
Sadly, a lot of it washes up on one of the world’s most remote places – Henderson Island.
A study from the University of Tasmania has found that Henderson Island – part of the Pitcairn island group bobbing in the middle of the South Pacific – is littered with an estimated 37.7 million pieces of plastic.
Despite being uninhabited and located more than 5,000 kilometres from the nearest major population centre, that’s the highest density of plastic debris reported anywhere on the planet.
And like real estate, it’s all about location, location, location.
Henderson Island is near the centre of the South Pacific Gyre ocean current, making it a focal point for debris carried from South America or deposited by fishing boats.
During a rare scientific expedition to the island, Dr Jennifer Lavers found the beaches littered by up to 671 items per square metre..
“What’s happened on Henderson Island shows there’s no escaping plastic pollution even in the most distant parts of our oceans,” Dr Lavers said.
“Far from being the pristine ‘deserted island’ that people might imagine of such a remote place, Henderson Island is a shocking but typical example of how plastic debris is affecting the environment on a global scale.”
Dr Lavers said most of the more than 300 million tonnes of plastic produced worldwide each year is not recycled, and as it’s buoyant and durable it has a long-term impact on the ocean.
“Research has shown that more than 200 species are known to be at risk from eating plastic, and 55 per cent of the world’s seabirds, including two species found on Henderson Island, are at risk from marine debris,” Dr Lavers said.
Read more about the study here. Story credit: University of Tasmania newsroom.
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