Never miss a great news story!
Get instant notifications from Economic Times
AllowNot now


You can switch off notifications anytime using browser settings.
11,891.4019.3
Stock Analysis, IPO, Mutual Funds, Bonds & More

A Pacific paradise is getting buried under tonnes of plastic waste

Henderson Island is an uninhabited coral atoll that lies halfway between New Zealand and Peru, with 5,500km of the ocean in either direction. Despite its extreme isolation, a freak confluence of geography and ocean currents means Henderson has one...

Agencies|
Updated: Jul 31, 2019, 10.01 AM IST
0Comments
AFP East Beach Pic
During a 2015 clean-up expedition, the island’s East Beach was found littered with 700 items of plastic/square metre, one of the highest concentrations in the world (AFP)
WELLINGTON: Floating plastic garbage has swamped a remote Pacific island and scientists say little can be done to save it while a throwaway culture persists.


Henderson Island is an uninhabited coral atoll that lies almost exactly halfway between New Zealand and Peru, with 5,500km of ocean in either direction. Despite its extreme isolation, a freak confluence of geography and ocean currents means Henderson has one of the highest concentrations of plastic pollution on the planet. Along a 2.5km stretch of sandy beach, an estimated 18 tonnes of plastic has accumulated over decades at a rate of several thousand pieces of plastic every day.

“We had bottles and containers, all kinds of fishing stuff and it had come from Germany, Canada, the US, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador,” said Jennifer Lavers who led an expedition to the island last month. The atoll’s ecosytem is so rich that Henderson was included on the UN World Heritage List in 1988, with the body hailing it as an untouched paradise. But three decades later, the gyre has become a marine conveyor belt dumping endless waves of plastic detritus onto Henderson’s coast.

Lavers led her first expedition there in 2015 and on the island’s East Beach found there were about 700 items of plastic per square metre, one of the highest concentrations found anywhere in the world. Adding to the problem, the churning waves have reduced more than half the waste to tiny particles invisible to the human eye, making them impossible to clean up but easily digested by wildlife such as birds and turtles. Lavers organised a clean-up effort on her most recent trip to the island last month and her team collected six tonnes of plastic garbage from the beach over two weeks. They were unable to take away the rubbish because their ship could not find a safe mooring on the rugged coastline, instead storing it above the high-tide line for future removal.

Lavers admitted it was “heartbreaking” to make such a mammoth effort only to see more garbage floating ashore where they had just cleaned. “We’d be having our lunch and watching it replenish in real time as things like buoys and bits of rope washed onto the beach,” she said.

Also Read

Plastic is now on your boss' KRA

Iconic Pacific bird sanctuary ravaged by plastic and death

Early work on for safe replacement of plastics

Unilever announces commitments to reduce plastic waste; to halve use of 'virgin' plastic by 2025

Anti-plastic message: Mother Dairy commissions plastic 'Ravana'; dismantles and sends for recycling

Comments
Add Your Comments
Commenting feature is disabled in your country/region.
Download The Economic Times Business News App for the Latest News in Business, Sensex, Stock Market Updates & More.

Other useful Links


Follow us on


Download et app


Copyright © 2019 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service