South Pacific Island Uninhabited For 600 Years Is Drowning In Plastic

There truly is no Earthly escape from the waste we have unleashed into the environment. 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.

World heritage site Henderson Island is among the most remote places on Earth. Although Polynesians once occupied the island, it has been uninhabited for at least 600 years. Moreover, the nearest inhabited island is Pitcairn, 120 miles away with a population of just 56. When it comes to major population centers Henderson is more than 3,000 miles from New Zealand, and South America is even further.

Dr. Jennifer Lavers of the University of Tasmania chose to study human debris on Henderson as an indication of the way we are affecting even the most remote places on Earth.

Sampling segments of the 14 square miles island, the pair found an average of 239 items of human origin per square meter just at the beach’s surface. Almost all (99.8 percent) was plastic, and there were more than twice as many bits of plastic, mostly smaller pieces, buried in the first 4 inches of sand.

Lavers reports the quantity by area in one sample, 672 items per square meter, is the highest recorded anywhere in the world. She estimates the island as a whole has 38 million pieces of plastic on it, weighing 19 tons. Lavers said most of the plastic was in fragments whose source could not be determined, but of the portions that could, consumer items such as plastic cutlery and shampoo bottles dominated.

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