Scientists find 38 million pieces of trash on Pacific island

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Now, reports NPR's Camila Domonoske, a new study shows just how bad the plastic debris problem has gotten.

Approximately 3,600 items arrive on the island each day, the report stated.

Jennifer Lavers, marine exotoxicologist of Australia's University of Tasmania, said manmade trash can be found all over the island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

In the course of their study, the researchers counted more than 53,000 pieces of human-made trash, traced to 24 different countries of manufacture.

The island is so remote that it is visited only once every five to 10 years for research purposes. I was totally wrong. Plus, most of the plastics - 68 percent or up to 416 pieces per square foot - were buried in and concealed by the sand.

"From the looks on people's faces, it was quite grotesque", she said.

"We are not providing them a home". The study found hundreds of purple hermit crabs using plastic cosmetics jars and bottle caps for their shells - containers that are sharp, jagged, brittle, and toxic. Its unique ecology boasts of 10 plants and four land birds endemic to the island. Its isolation had, until recently, afforded it protection from most human activities.

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Experts say such findings underline the importance of properly managing plastic litter at its source, and preventing it from entering the ocean through storm drains or poor waste management practices. "All corners of the globe are already being impacted".

For Henderson, "clean-up is not an option", she says.

The total is an estimated 37.7 million pieces of plastic on the whole island, which is slightly less than 15 square miles. Although it is very small and very hidden, a new paper, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, suggests it has the highest density of garbage anywhere on Earth.

"When we dispose of plastics, we think it goes away, but there is no 'away, ' " Bond said.

Over 300 million tonnes of plastic is annually produced worldwide, most of which are not recycled. Knowing this, Henderson ought to be one of the most pristine places on this planet.

Since the beginning of its mass manufacture seven decades ago, the annual world production of plastic has increased from 1.7 million tons in 1954 to 311 million tons in 2014. This is a global problem requiring global solutions but the responsibility of the United Kingdom government is clear: "It must take concrete action to reduce the amount of plastic ending up in the sea", said Greenpeace oceans campaigner Ariana Densham.

Such plastic pollution has a significant effect on wildlife and marine habitats. We've been arguing about climate change, and whether it exists and what is changing, for the better part of 40 years ...

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