Marine biologist Jennifer Lavers of the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Research, Australia, discovered on Henderson Island-once a virgin island that UNESCO declared a world heritage site-a huge mountain of debris, 17.6 tons of almost exclusively plastic. The scientists described their discovery in an article published in the journal PNAS. .
Initially, the group arrived on the island in order to study measures to combat invasive rabbits. This uninhabited island of Henderson is perhaps the most remote place from the inhabited world. The distance from it to the nearest city, even the smallest, is about 5000 kilometers.
On one of the most littered sections of the shore on a square meter of surface there were 672 garbage items, and buried in the sand were another 4497 items per square meter. This garbage was created in various places, and winds and ocean currents brought it to Henderson Island.
Comparing these figures with the results of studies carried out in 1991 at the neighboring atolls of Ducie and Oeno, the Leives group concluded that today there is at least 200 Henderson Island (according to maximum estimates, in 2000) more garbage than it was on these atolls in 1991.
The bulk of it is made up of not identifiable pieces of plastic, tar spools and fishing tackle elements, but there are also toothbrushes, dummy pacifiers, protective helmets, bicycle pedals and even a sex toy. The sea throws out thousands of such things daily, which, according to Leywers, who specializes in the study of plastic contamination, makes purging attempts meaningless.
The threat of such pollution exists for many other sea coasts. “Wherever I went and how far this place was from populated areas, I ran across plastic everywhere,” said Laevers.
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