On a small uninhabited island, researchers have discovered it has been harboring 38 million pieces of trash.
Henderson Island is a designated world heritage site because of bird life and is a part of the U.K Pitcairn island territory. It is located in the middle of the South Pacific Gyre ocean current making it a bullseye for debris carried in the ocean current.
The island has the highest density of plastic debris than anywhere reported on earth. According to Proceedings of Nationals Academic of Science, a study has estimated, 17 tons of plastic debris washed up on Henderson Island, with more than 3,570 new pieces of litter arriving every day on the one beach alone.
Jennifer Lavers, a research scientist and study’s lead at the University of Tasmania, was on a scientific expedition led by RSPB when she and other researchers made the discovery of the millions of trash. Lavers states, “Henderson Island is an example of how debris is affecting the environment on a global scale.”
There is a possibility there is even more trash due to the fact many researchers could not sample the trash on the rocky coast and cliffs, Lavers believes.
The plastic trash has been clearly affecting the wildlife there. Over 200 species are at risk by marine debris with 55% of the birds being at risk.
Hermit crabs can be seen everywhere using small plastic containers especially Avon cosmetic jars and lids of bottles as their shells, all sharp and toxic. One crab seen by Lavers used a doll’s head as its shell.
Sea turtles becoming entangled in fishing line and the plastic debris on the beach has reduced the number of sea turtle laying attempts.
When examined in 2015, researchers counted around 58,000 pieces of man-made trash, most hidden under the sand, making the trash worse than what is seen on the surface. 68% of the debris is hidden under the sand deeper than 10 centimeters.
The island is a reminder of how much plastic can be irresponsibly thrown into the ocean. Plastic does not deteriorate and only breaks up into smaller pieces, but will exist forever.