Nearly 40 million pieces of plastic littered in Tiny British island in South Pacific

Plastic blights the beaches of Henderson Island PA

Plastic waste has piled up on the formerly pristine shores of a remote British island in the South Pacific, making it the worst site for plastic pollution in the world.

Beaches of the uninhabited Henderson Island, part of Britain’s overseas territory, are littered with 37.7 million pieces of plastic, scientists have estimated.

Investigators visiting the 14-mile-square isle, which forms part of the Pitcairn Islands, found up to 671 items of plastic on every square metre of its otherwise pristine beaches.

Henderson Island was named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations in 1988. The island can be found 3,100 miles away from the nearest major population centre, and has one of the world's best preserved raised coral atolls.

It also happens to be near the centre of the South Pacific Gyre, a circular ocean current that gathers together man-made debris carried from South America and deposited by fishing boats.

Dr Jennifer Lavers, from the University of Tasmania's Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, who led a scientific expedition to the island carried out by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), said: "What's happened on Henderson Island shows there's no escaping plastic pollution even in the most distant parts of our oceans.

"Far from being the pristine 'deserted island' that people might imagine of such a remote place, Henderson Island is a shocking but typical example of how plastic debris is affecting the environment on a global scale.

"Based on our sampling at five sites we estimated that more than 17 tonnes of plastic debris has been deposited on the island, with more than 3,570 new pieces of litter washing up each day on one beach alone.”

More than 300 million tonnes of plastic produced worldwide each year is not recycled, said Dr Lavers. 

She added: "Plastic debris is an entanglement and ingestion hazard for many species, creates a physical barrier on beaches to animals such as sea turtles, and lowers the diversity of shoreline invertebrates.

"Research has shown that more than 200 species are known to be at risk from eating plastic, and 55% of the world's sea birds, including two species found on Henderson Island, are at risk from marine debris."

Evening Standard
HendersonIslandplastic pollutionBritish overseasterritories
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