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 (36)
  • emilyc-kut
    6/03/2017 - 11:44 a.m.

    It is sad to think that we throw away so much trash that this poor island collected 38 million pieces of it. The fact that the sea turtle and crab where in so poor condition's to live on the island was a way to say how trash effect's the environment of many other places too. All in all I think that people should really recycle more now after reading this article, we should take better care of our environment.

  • shaunc-kut
    6/06/2017 - 02:58 p.m.

    17.6 tons of plastic was polluted in the Pacific Ocean. That's a lot of plastic that people polluted

  • stevens-kut
    6/06/2017 - 04:06 p.m.

    That is horrible! People need to pick up their trash!

  • stevens-kut
    6/06/2017 - 04:08 p.m.

    We need to stop polluting the oceans and pick up after our selves!

  • collinh-kut
    6/06/2017 - 04:52 p.m.

    The island can collect so much trash because of where it is. Since it's in the middle of the Pacific Ocean it can collect the trash from many places. It can have that much trash even though it's small because the trash was on top of other trash and it was filling up most of the island.

  • aubreyg-kut
    6/06/2017 - 09:07 p.m.

    This is a lot of trash that WE are not recycling. This generation needs to start recycling more or maybe all of the sea animals will die from consuming or getting suffocated by the trash in the water.

  • keniad-kut
    6/07/2017 - 07:36 p.m.

    How could such a tiny island collect so much trash? I think it collected so much trash because the people that where dumping all the trash on the island was stacking do trash over the trash or they could of just dump it in the water and it floated away.

  • cheyannec-kut
    6/08/2017 - 08:03 a.m.

    Because people carelessly drop plastic items such as cups, forks, and spoons since they are too lazy to get up and find a trash can. When it rains, they get swept into one of the currents in the South Pacific gyre. Then, it drifts of to the island and since no one ever really vacations there, the trash just kept collecting over the years. We should solve this problem by putting together clean-up groups who travel to the island to pick up the trash so it looks nice again.

  • elianac-kut
    6/11/2017 - 05:58 p.m.

    It is very strange to hear that a tiny island has 38 million pieces of trash on it. And that 13,000 pieces of trash wash up every day!It says that the island is 6m long and 3m wide, which means that its just all trash and nothing else.

  • Braxtonf-eic
    9/01/2017 - 11:34 a.m.

    I think it is so bad for the ocean life and for the ocean itself and people don't even care about what is happening out in the ocean

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