Henderson Island, in the Pitcairn Group of South America, has earned the dubious honour of having the highest density of plastic rubbish anywhere in the world. The island, which ironically is listed among World Heritage sites, is said to contain almost 37.7million items of debris that collectively weigh 17.6 tonnes. This is according to a study conducted by Australian researcher Dr Jennifer Lavers, who believes the island has the highest density of plastic litter anywhere in the world.
Between 1954 and 2014 annual production of plastic dramatically rose from 1.7million tonnes to 311 million, the results of the study show. To understand the magnitude of the problem caused by plastic waste, Dr Lavers tries to put things into perspective: the 17.6 tonnes of plastic on Henderson Island represents only 1.98 seconds’ worth of plastic produced globally every year.
Dr Lavers and her team calculated that approximately 68% of debris was buried less than 10cm in the sand, with ever square meter containing almost 672 items. The bad news doesn’t end there. Each day 1.7 to 26.8 items per meter are washed up on North Beach; most of the items are ordinary household items like razors, toothbrushes, cigarette lighters and plastic scoops.
Interestingly, Henderson Island is rarely visited and isn’t close to any shipping lanes or fisheries. In fact, there are no major land-based industries or cities within 5,000 kilometres. The nearest settlement is Pitcairn Island whose population is a mere 40 people.
Dr Lavers says their study shows “there is nowhere left in the world that is safe” thanks to plastic being so ubiquitous.