Uninhabited island of plastic debris.
To get to Henderson Island, which is part of the overseas territory of the Great Britain of Pitcairn Island in the Pacific, Jennifer Lavers needed to fly from Tasmania to Tahiti, to catch there a small plane flying once a week to the Gambier Islands, get hooked on a cargo ship, ten days before which came out of New Zealand, and convince the captain to change course to Henderson - no vessel goes there unless you ask persistently. It is one of the most remote corners of the Earth, located right in the middle of the Southern Pacific.
However, Google Street View got there. Find Henderson on guglomap, drag a yellow man to the northern part of the east coast - and you can stroll through the most littered beach in the world. Bottles, boxes, jerry cans, other containers, pieces of hose, pieces of ropes, fragments of ship reasons, some balls, pipes, nets, sneakers - all this will meet you along the way in the wildest of abundance. All this was seen by Lavers during the screen walk - and, horrified virtually, immediately hurried to the island to be horrified at firsthand.
Source What kind of garbage can not be found on Henderson Island! So I found a guy with a camera.
In reality, everything looked even worse. Directly near the landing site, a cargo tire protruded from the sand - "it was a warning," says Lavers. "Then it got worse and worse," she continues. - On the beach there is a site, which we called a "garbage stain": wherever there is a stupa - be sure to step on the lid of the bottle. From the abundance of garbage simply breathes spirits. "
But Henderson, in theory, should be clean - he's uninhabited, and tourists do not go there, except that some researchers once in five to ten years. There is nobody to litter. In 1988, the island was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, as there were colonies of rare birds and phosphate deposits, untouched by man. The nearest settlement - Adamstown on the island of Pitcairn - is more than a hundred kilometers away, and there are only a few dozen inhabitants. And yet plastic debris turned Henderson into yet another big dump of mankind.
"This is really one of the last paradise on the planet, little visited, but zealously guarded," Lavers wonders. "But I do not remember that I was somewhere in such an unlimited and absolute environment of plastic."
The fact is that the islands of Pitcairn are located within the South Pacific ring of currents, and the debris circulating in it, when encountering land, settles on the banks, as if bending on the walls of your shell when draining. In general, in the surface layers of the World Ocean today, more than five trillion plastic particles are floating, mostly in the form of crumbs of millimeter size.
Jennifer Lavers, an ecologist from the University of Tasmania (Australia), has been studying plastic pollution on the secluded islands of the Earth for years. She and her colleagues, including Alexander Bond of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (UK), arrived in Henderson in 2015 and spent three months there in the garbage company, reviewing it and counting.
It was a difficult experience. Corner, of course, paradise - with sandy beaches, sprawling palm trees and caressing views of the sea. However, there is no fresh water, and frequent storms tear coconuts off the palm trees, dropping them on the scientists' tents in the middle of the night, sometimes together with the palm itself. Important is the fact that Henderson is an atoll, that is, it consists for the most part of sharp coral remnants, which they strive to cut your sneakers at any opportunity. So the participants of the expedition had to tie a crumbling shoe with ropes thrown on the beach among other garbage. "Except for a few narrow sections of the sandy shore, the island basically wants to kill you as quickly as possible," recalls Lavers.
The garbage itself also kills animals. At least one turtle was seen on the beach entangled in death in a fishing net. It also creates a physical barrier for green turtles going ashore to lay their eggs, and Henderson is the only island in Pitcairn where they nest. In addition, because of plastic, the biodiversity of coastal vertebrates is reduced, notes Lavers, and two species of local birds are threatened with choking on them accidentally and suffocating.
On the beaches of Henderson and in coastal vegetation, the scientific group counted more than 53 thousand fragments of anthropogenic debris larger than 2 mm. On each square meter are from 20 to 670 plastic elements, another 50 to 4500 are hidden in a 10-centimeter layer of soil. On the island, according to estimates of scientists, about 37.7 million pieces with a total mass of 17.6 tons. And debris continues to arrive: only one northern beach is washed daily by at least 3,570 newcomers - the accumulation takes place hundreds of thousands of times more intensively than in any other places known to scientists. If these estimates are correct, the coast of the island can be called the world record for the density of plastic waste - and this is even without taking into account the debris on the coastal rocks and at a depth of more than 10 cm.
Where does all this hellish trash come from? About a third comes from the shores of South America, primarily Chile, a lot of sailing from China and Japan. In total, scientists managed to calculate 24 states on all continents (except Antarctica), which served as "importers" of garbage for Henderson. "If in general, then no country is to blame for the pollution of the island to a greater or lesser degree," says Lavers. "Not only fishing boats or cruise liners are sources of plastic - many objects bring from rain sewers and from urban beaches."
As soon as the plastic is on the shore, it begins to melt and decompose under a sultry ultraviolet with the participation of wind and waves. The whole object breaks up into hundreds and thousands of smallest things that are then buried in the ground. And trying to clean the island of all this is not an option, Lavers is convinced, especially considering how difficult it is to get there and live there. The only option is to block the source itself, that is, the production of plastic.
Since the 1950s, when the era of plastics began, it has grown more than 180 times, and now the entire 17 tonne of garbage on the island is equivalent to the world's plastic production in just two seconds. "We need to put environmental costs into this product," Lavers said. "Plastic is used everywhere, in every aspect of social life - so there are not enough single changes."