Pacific island found buried under tonnes of waste

Henderson Island in the South Pacific has been found covered by 17.6 tonnes of plastic – amounting to 38 million pieces.

The discovery is the highest density of human waste debris recorded in the world.

Researchers from both Australia and Britain said that the rubbish amounted to 671 items per square metre and a total of nearly 18 tonnes.

Despite being one of the world’s most remote places on the planet it so happens to be one of the most polluted, with 98.8 per cent of the contamination being made up from plastic.

Dr Jennifer Lavers from the University of Tasmania said that, “a lot of the items on Henderson Island are what we wrongly refer to as disposable or single-use.”

The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and noted that isolated islands often act as a “sink” for rubbish throughout the world.

According to the scientists, the plastic is affecting animals on the island, with land crabs using the litter as homes. Dr Lavers said, “at first it looks a little bit cute, but it’s not. The plastic is old, it’s sharp, it’s brittle and toxic.”

What’s more there are more than 200 species at risk from eating plastic, and 55 per cent of the world’s seabirds, two of which are found on the island.

Levers also noted that “the 17.6 tonnes of anthropogenic debris estimated to be present on Henderson Island account for only 1.98 seconds’ worth of the annual global production of waste.”

It is estimated that a minimum of 3,570 items were deposited on the island daily, which is five orders of magnitude great than accumulation rates reported elsewhere.

Approximately 27 per cent of the items were thought to be from South America.

A separate study carried out last month found that some seas in the Arctic are also heavily polluted because of an Atlantic current which swamps the area with debris.

Experts say the findings underline the importance of properly managed waste management practices.

Andy has worked as a freelance journalist for a number of years and has been published in some of the UK’s top newspapers. He is now the editor Commercial Waste Magazine and contributes to a large selection of headlines and blog articles on the site.

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