London: Marine scientists have found on Henderson Island, a tiny landmass in the eastern South Pacific, the highest density of anthropogenic debris recorded anywhere in the world, with 99.8% of the pollution plastic.
A report by the Guardian said that the nearly 18 tonnes of plastic piling up on an island that is otherwise mostly untouched by humans have been pointed to as evidence of the catastrophic, “grotesque” extent of marine plastic pollution.
Nearly 38m pieces of plastic were estimated to be on Henderson by researchers from the University of Tasmania and the UK’s Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, weighing a combined 17.6 tonnes.
The majority of the debris – approximately 68% – was not even visible, with as many as 4,500 items per square metre buried to a depth of 10cm. About 13,000 new items were washing up daily.
Jennifer Lavers, of the University of Tasmania’s institute for marine and antarctic studies, told the UK daily the sheer volume of plastic pollution on Henderson had defied her expectations.
Lavers found hundreds of crabs living in rubbish such as bottle caps and cosmetics jars, and has been told of one living inside a doll’s head.
The largest of the four islands of the Pitcairn Island group, Henderson Island is a Unesco World Heritage Listed site and one of the few atolls in the world whose ecology has been practically untouched by humans.
The island exhibits remarkable biological diversity given it covers only 3,700 hectares, with 10 endemic species of plant and four land bird species. Its isolation had, until recently, afforded it protection from most human activities.
The 17.6 tonnes of plastic on Henderson accounted for only 1.98 seconds’ worth of annual production, found the paper – co-written by Lavers with Alexander Bond – published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday.
At the world oceans summit in early March, Indonesia pledged to put up to $1bn a year towards reducing plastic and other waste products polluting its waters, setting a goal of a 70% reduction in marine waste within eight years.