Watch: Uninhabited South Pacific Island is world’s most densely polluted place

Henderson Island, located halfway between Chile and New Zealand, has an estimated 38 million pieces of trash washed up on the beaches.

FP Staff May 17, 2017 16:46:17 IST

Henderson Island, located halfway between Chile and New Zealand, has an estimated 38 million pieces of trash washed up on the beaches. A study conducted by researchers from the University of Tasmania concluded the island gets more than 13,000 pieces of trash every day, which is about 10 kilometers long and 5 kilometers wide. Jennifer Lavers, a research scientist at Australia's University of Tasmania, was lead author of the report, which was published Tuesday 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, which tends to capture and hold floating trash.

Lavers and six others stayed on the island for 3½ months in 2015 while conducting the study. They found the trash weighed an estimated 17.6 tons and that more than two-thirds of it was buried in shallow sediment on the beaches.

The most common items they found were cigarette lighters and toothbrushes.

Melissa Bowen, an oceanographer at the University of Auckland in New Zealand who was not involved in the study, 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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