In the Pitcairn Group of islands just off South America, lies the World-Heritage listed Henderson Island. Despite its protected status, the Island’s beaches are strewn with plastic rubbish, making it the largest unofficial ‘plastic rubbish dump’ in the world.
In findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences today, scientists have calculated that the beaches of Henderson Island contain an estimated 37.7 million items of plastic debris, which together weigh 17.6 tonnes. Australian researcher, Dr Jennifer Lavers told the ABC that these figures meant that the island had the highest density of plastic rubbish anywhere in the world.
In their paper, Lavers and her co-author Alexander Bond argue that until recently, the remote geographical positioning of many island often meant they had been protected from most human activities, like waste. “However, society’s increasing desire for plastic products has resulted in plastic becoming ubiquitous in the marine environment, where it persists for decades,” they said.
Lavers and Bond argue that the high density of plastics found on the island suggests that, “remote islands close to oceanic plastic accumulation zones act as important sinks for some of the waste accumulated in these areas.”
The issue of plastic consumption is a growing global problem. As the ABC reports, the 17.6 tonnes of plastic debris found on the Island accounts for just 1.98 seconds’ worth of the current annual global production of plastic.
Plastic pollution has severely detrimental effects for marine life, with an estimated 25 per cent of the world’s marine fish species currently consuming plastic.