Tiny island has 38 million pieces of trash In this 2015 photo provided by Jennifer Lavers, a crab uses as shelter a piece of plastic debris on the beach on Henderson Island. (Jennifer Lavers via AP)
Tiny island has 38 million pieces of trash
Lexile

Researchers have traveled to a tiny, uninhabited island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. They were astonished to find an estimated 38 million pieces of trash. It all had washed up on the beaches.
 
Almost all of the garbage they found on Henderson Island was made from plastic. There were toy soldiers, dominos, toothbrushes and hundreds of hardhats of every shape, size and color.
 
The researchers say the density of trash was the highest recorded anywhere in the world. This is despite Henderson Island's extreme remoteness. The island is located about halfway between New Zealand and Chile. It is recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site.
 
Jennifer Lavers, a research scientist at Australia's University of Tasmania, was lead author of the report. It was published in "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences."
 
Lavers said Henderson Island is at the edge of a vortex of ocean currents known as the South Pacific gyre. It tends to capture and hold floating trash.
 
"The quantity of plastic there is truly alarming," Lavers told The Associated Press. "It's both beautiful and terrifying."
 
She said she sometimes found herself getting mesmerized by the variety and colors of the plastic that litters the island. That is before the tragedy of it would sink in again.
 
Lavers and six others stayed on the island for 3 and a half months in 2015 while conducting the study. They found the trash weighed an estimated 17.6 tons. More than two-thirds of it was buried in shallow sediment on the beaches.
 
Lavers said she noticed green toy soldiers that looked identical to those her brother played with as a child in the early 1980s. She also saw red motels from the Monopoly board game.
 
She said the most common items they found were cigarette lighters and toothbrushes. One of the strangest was a baby pacifier.

She said they found a sea turtle that had died after getting caught in an abandoned fishing net. And a crab was living in a cosmetics container.
 
By clearing a part of the beach of trash and then watching new pieces accumulate, Lavers said they were able to estimate that more than 13,000 pieces of trash wash up every day.
 
The island is about 6 miles long and 3 miles wide.
 
Henderson Island is part of the Pitcairn Islands group. It is a British dependency. It is so remote that Lavers said she missed her own wedding after the boat coming to collect the group was delayed.
 
Luckily, she said, the guests were still in Tahiti, in French Polynesia. She managed to show up three days late. She still got married.
 
Lavers said she is so appalled by the amount of plastic in the oceans that she has taken to using a bamboo iPhone case and toothbrush.
 
"We need to drastically rethink our relationship with plastic," she said. "It's something that's designed to last forever. But it is often only used for a few fleeting moments and then tossed away."
 
Melissa Bowen is an oceanographer at the University of Auckland in New Zealand who was not involved in the study. She said that winds and currents in the gyre cause the buildup of plastic items on places like Henderson Island.
 
"As we get more and more of these types of studies, it is bringing home the reality of plastic in the oceans," Bowen said.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
How could such a tiny island collect so much trash?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (43)
  • mariusm-kut
    5/25/2017 - 07:40 a.m.

    I think that a tiny island has a lot of trash because the South Pacific Current has a lot of trash and the trash is all flowing in to the island. I was wondering how the scientists weighed all of the trash. Did they weigh each piece or did they weigh it all at once?

  • juliom2012-
    5/25/2017 - 08:37 a.m.

    It collected so much trash because Henderson island is at the edge of a vortex of ocean currents which harbors trash mostly plastics.

  • joeyh-
    5/25/2017 - 08:39 a.m.

    Currents bring the items to the island, it sits in an area where currents go directly to the island.

  • eileeng-kut
    5/29/2017 - 07:44 p.m.

    I think that this is a very important topic that people should look out for. I think this because throwing your trash away in the ocean could cause lots of harm to animals that live in the ocean. I think that people should be careful and throw their trash away and not in the ocean. About 13,000 pieces of trash are washed up on one island each day.

  • abrahaml-kut
    5/29/2017 - 08:03 p.m.

    didn't know the pacific ocean was so polluted from plastic 17.6 TONS wow that is a lot. so lets stop litering

  • kelliek-
    5/30/2017 - 08:36 a.m.

    It is the only piece of land for a while so all the trash in the oceans ends up there. It seems like a lot of trash because the islands are so small. Also since there are no homes are buildings there is more room for trash.

  • antonioc1222-
    5/30/2017 - 08:39 a.m.

    It could collect so much because people like to throw trash in the ocean and the trash in the ocean travels and washes it up onto the island.

  • kylel-buh
    5/30/2017 - 11:36 a.m.

    On an island in the Pacific Ocean researchers were astounded to find 38 millions pieces of trash on one island. and the island is uninhabited.


    MY OPINION: My opinion is that I'm not surprised. people have been throwing trash into the water FOREVER!!!! It's not good but it is a great thing that people are trying to put a stop to it.

  • kemblya-
    5/31/2017 - 12:58 p.m.

    It collected so much trash because it was near the vortex of the ocean currents

  • Wil20-wil
    6/02/2017 - 09:05 a.m.

    The island probably ended up with so much plastic because people trash so much plastic, and a lot of it ends in the ocean. Also, currents from the vortex could have pushed the trash onto the island.

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