One would expect very little plastic, if any, on an uninhabited island. In reality, the opposite is true at Henderson Island in the South Pacific ocean. Marine scientists have discovered that this uninhabited coral atoll is one of the most polluted, and 99.8 percent of the debris is plastic.
Tonnes of Plastic Found on Uninhabited Island
Researchers from the University of Tasmania estimate that about 17.6 tonnes of plastic, nearly 38 million pieces, have “landed” on Henderson Island. This discovery proves the catastrophic extent of marine pollution.
Jennifer Lavers, who is part of the University’s institute for marine and antarctic studies, stated in an interview with the Guardian:
I’ve traveled to some of the most far-flung islands in the world and regardless of where I’ve gone, in what year, and in what area of the ocean, the story is generally the same: the beaches are littered with evidence of human activity …
However, my thought was the remarkable remoteness of Henderson Island would have afforded it some protection. I was totally wrong.
Scientists identified that the debris is buried as deep as 10 cm underneath the visible surface. In addition, they estimate that about 13,000 items wash up on the island each day.
Impact on Plastic Pollution on the Environment
The impact of plastic has been detrimental to the world’s waterways. Environmental organizations estimate that about seven million tons of plastic end up in the seas and oceans each year. This debris pollutes land and water habitats and kills off precious animal and plant species. Furthermore, with plastic pollution we are contaminating a major food source. “One study found that fish in the North Pacific ingest as much as 24,000 tons of plastic debris a year.” (Source)
People produce about 300 million tons of plastic each year. In the U.S., about 30+ million tons of plastic waste ends up in the solid waste system. This includes various plastic containers, bags and other types of packaging. Moreover, we only recycle about 10 percent of the plastic that we produce.
Thankfully, people around the world are taking notice and realizing the need to solve this problem. Take The Ocean Cleanup project for example. Their technology promises to remove 50 percent of the garbage patch in just five years.
Consequently, as consumers, we must make better choices. The fewer plastic goods and packages we purchase, the less ends up in our oceans.
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