Henderson Island, a small, uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean. An area of about 37.3 sq km. The nearest populated area is 193 km (120 mi) northeast of Pitcairn Island. A Pacific island uninhabited and far removed from humans. It is halfway between New Zealand and Chile. One of the last raised atolls in the world unaffected by human contact. A place complete with beaches. Sounds like paradise, doesn’t it?
Not anymore. Henderson Island has now developed a messy distinction. It now holds the title as the world’s largest density of plastic trash pollution. It has literally become paradise lost in a rubbish tip. Over 38 million pieces of plastic trash have been found on this island. What is even more bizarre is that no one lives on this island. And there are likely places with far more tourism and exploration than Henderson Island.
How does a place get so inundated with plastic trash, without the aid of humans?
Truth is, plastic trash is far more common in the world’s oceans than one might think. There have been reports of plastic trash in the oceans as the Great Pacific garbage patch. It is estimated to be anywhere from 700,000 sq km in area to 15,000,000 sq km in area. To put this in an appropriate perspective, Zambia is over 750,000 sq km in area. Antarctica is 14,000,000 sq km in area. In short, there is enough plastic garbage in the ocean to cover areas ranging from the size of Zambia and higher. Henderson Island is a mere 37.3 sq km. The amount of plastic in the Great Pacific garbage patch is estimated to be enough to cover Henderson Island over 18,700 times.
The truth is, there is a big issue with people dumping their garbage in oceans. It has been documented in affected ecosystems. Many marine animals have choked on or have been strangled to death by plastic debris. And thanks to ocean currents, that trash isn’t going to stay in just one place. 24°21′S 128°19′W is the geographic coordinates of Henderson Island. That is on the other side of the Equator, far away from the Great Pacific garbage patch. So we can rule out that garbage patch as been the cause of the plastic landing on Henderson Island. The South Pacific Gyre has played a big factor. Henderson Island is located towards the center of this Pacific gyre. In short, plastic garbage, which non-biodegradable, is being carried through the lengths of the earth and throughout the oceans via ocean currents, landing in even the most remote places
With plastic showing up in such a remote place, this is the lesson to take from this. The littering that humans can do will not only affect the immediate area. It isn’t just your neighborhood, your city, or even your country. The garbage in the world’s oceans is being carried to other places. It has created a situation where we could create a garbage pit in a place so far away without us deliberately putting it there. A garbage dump on an island where humans have never lived, and it wasn’t brought in by boat or airplane. Rather, by the ocean currents from far away. The litter we dump on the roads, in the oceans, can be carried far away. It shows that the earth is more connected than we realize, even in the most remote places.