Although inhabited and remote, South Sentinel island is covered with plastic! South Sentinel, Andaman Islands, Bay of Bengal. Captions and Photo: © SAF — Coastal Care
By Pola Lem NASA / Earth Observatory;
In the middle of the South Pacific Ocean, far from the urban, developed world, there is a small, lush, green island with white sand beaches. However, this uninhabited, remote corner of the tropics—Henderson Island—also has a trash problem.
The beaches of Henderson Island have the highest density of plastic waste in the world, according to a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Since the island is located near the center of an ocean gyre, it is in an ideal position to collect trash floating by on currents from the Americas.
The image above was acquired on April 3, 2009, by Advanced Spaceborne Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) aboard the Terra satellite. Relatively cloud-free, the image shows a perimeter of narrow beaches surrounding a mostly flat, vegetation-covered island that spans 14 square miles (37 square kilometers).
Even as other Pacific islands have seen development, Henderson has remained largely free of human activity. It contains poor soil and is located roughly 125 miles (200 kilometers) from the closest inhabited island. The absence of people has been a boon for wildlife, as the island shelters a bunch of endemic species, including ten plants and four land birds unique to the island. “Its isolated location provides the ideal context for studying the dynamics of insular evolution and natural selection,” noted UNESCO, which named the island a World Heritage Site in 1988.
Original Study: “Exceptional and rapid accumulation of anthropogenic debris on one of the world’s most remote and pristine islands”; Pnas (06-06-2017)
The isolation of remote islands has, until recently, afforded protection from most human activities. However, society’s increasing desire for plastic products has resulted in plastic becoming ubiquitous in the marine environment, where it persists for decades. We provide a comprehensive analysis of the quantity and source of beach-washed plastic debris on one of the world’s remotest islands…
No escaping ocean plastic: 37 million bits of litter on one of world’s remotest islands; Science Daily (05-15-2017)
The beaches of one of the world’s most remote islands have been found to be polluted with the highest density of plastic debris reported anywhere on the planet, a new study shows. Despite being uninhabited and located more than 5,000 kilometers from the nearest major population center, Henderson Island is littered with an estimated 37.7 million pieces of plastic…
Biodegradable Plastics Are Not the Answer to Reducing Marine Litter, UN News Center (11-23-2015)
Widespread adoption of products labelled ‘biodegradable’ will not significantly decrease the volume of plastic entering the ocean or the physical and chemical risks that plastics pose to marine environment, concluded a UN report released today…