Perhaps one of the reasons that being conscious of the amount of trash we produce and throw away is not easy for many of us, is due to the fact we simply don’t see it once we get rid of it. When we dump our garbage into trashcans, it pretty much ceases to exist – out of sight, out of mind. Chances are if you live in an area where the streets are not literally covered with non-biodegradable throwaway plastics, you do not actively think it’s your plastic bottles and bags that are littering streets, beaches, and waters. We get it, it’s called cognitive dissonance.
But it turns out in some cases, our trash not only ends up littering our own town – but it is crowding up places that are far, far way According to a recent study, the place with the highest density of plastic waste in the entire world is … an uninhabited island in the South Pacific! The beaches of Henderson Island, one of the UK’s Pitcairn Islands, are covered with an estimated 37.7 million pieces of debris. Why does so much waste end up there? The island is located near the center of an ocean current, which means that it collects large quantities of debris from boats and picks up waste streams mainly coming from South America.
The joint Australian and British study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says that the waste on the island amounts to 671 items per square meter and a total of 17 tons. The items vary from fishing equipment to everyday objects like toothbrushes and cigarette lighters. To make this discovery even worse, Henderson Island is listed by UNESCO as a coral atoll with a fairly unique ecology. It is noted for ten unique plant and four bird species.
The terrible shape of the island highlights once again the gravity of our plastic problem. “Almost every island in the world and almost every species in the ocean is now being shown to be impacted one way or another by our waste,” Dr Jennifer Lavers from the University of Tasmania told BBC. “There’s not really any one person or any one country that gets a free pass on this.”
No matter how far the plastic waste ends up – deep in the ocean or on a remote little island – we cannot ignore we are at the root of this problem. With 300 million tons of plastic produced every year and 8.8 million tons dumped into the oceans, we can’t afford to be careless about the disposable plastics we use every day.
Every time we visit a store, we can make a crucial decision that influences our planet and our future. To learn more about how to limit your use of plastics, check out One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign!
Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.
Image source: Lavers & Bond/PNAS