1. ITV Report

38m pieces of rubbish found washed up on remote island's beaches

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Sally Lockwood

A tiny, uninhabited island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, has been found to be one of the most densely polluted areas in the world.

With an estimated 38 million pieces of rubbish covering its beaches Henderson Island - the largest of the Pitcairn Island group's four islands - was described by researchers as "a shocking but typical example of how plastic debris is affecting the environment on a global scale".

There was so much rubbish that a crab was even caught on camera using an empty cosmetics container as a shelter Credit: Jennifer Lavers via AP
Lead researcher Doctor Jennifer Lavers said it was 'really quite an alarming situation' Credit: Jennifer Lavers via AP

According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the remote island is "polluted with the highest density of plastic debris reported anywhere on the planet" despite being uninhabited and located more than 5000 kilometres from the nearest major population centre.

Writer of the report Doctor Jennifer Lavers, of the University of Tasmania’s institute for marine and antarctic studies, described her findings as being indicative of "really quite an alarming situation".

She said: "The top offenders on the beach were by and large everyday consumer items that most people don't really hesitate when they use them to think about what it really means and where they might end up."

Explaining that the research involved digging down 10cm below the surface to understand the extent of the pollution she added: "What we found is that around 65-70% of the plastic present on a beach is not actually visible to the naked eye, you need to go and dig deep for it."

“What’s happened on Henderson Island shows there’s no escaping plastic pollution even in the most distant parts of our oceans,” she said.

items of litter per square metre
new pieces of litter washed up each day on one beach alone during the study

Henderson Island, a Unesco World Heritage listed site located about halfway between New Zealand and Chile, is so remote it’s reportedly only visited every five to ten years for research purposes, but it is thought to have become a focal point for debris carried from South America or off of fishing boats.

Among the rubbish found on the island were plastic toy soldiers, toothbrushes and hundreds of hardhats of varying sizes and colours.