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How a remote island has the highest density of human garbage on the planet

How a remote island has the highest density of human garbage on the planet

Fishing nets and buoys, helmets, lighters, toothbrushes and plastic containers are part of the accumulation of waste, although most are "unidentified objects, some of which only measure one millimeter," Jennifer Lavers, from the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies from the University of Tasmania.

Lavers participated in the study that the British environmental NGO RSPB carried out in Henderson and which found the presence of 671 trash remains per square meter on the island, the highest rate in the world, according to the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

The report also calculated that some 3,570 debris reach its shores daily, despite the fact that its beaches are part of the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Disposals from Japan, China and the United States, but also from Chile, Ecuador and Peru or from more distant countries, such as Germany, France, Spain and the United Kingdom, end up on that island discovered by the Portuguese Pedro Fernandes de Queirós in 1606 and what forms part of the British Pitcairn Archipelago.

Distance is not an impediment to the arrival of waste: the 37-square-kilometer territory is more than 5,000 kilometers away from the nearest continental mass and only receives visits for scientific purposes every five to ten years.

Lavers explained by phone that a possible cause of the high pollution could be its proximity to the oceanic gyre of the South Pacific, a rotating marine current system that would transport the waste of other nations to the site.

The expert predicted that pollution in Henderson and on the planet will be aggravated in the future by climate change and global warming and will cause "many of the currents that we know to change in direction, depth or speed."

These modifications will cause changes in the accumulation of plastic in the coming years, "which can expose the same problems to new communities of species from elsewhere," said Lavers, who urged governments around the world to better manage garbage and share their knowledge with the less developed nations.

Scientists estimate that more than 300 million tons of plastic were produced worldwide in 2014, while in the 1950s world production was less than two million tons.

Plastic that is not recycled floats and has a fairly long life span, a situation that endangers the more than 200 species that inhabit the oceans, including fish, invertebrates, mammals and birds.

Plastic debris represents a danger for many animals that become entangled in them or ingest them, in addition to the fact that they can also end up on the shores of beaches forming barriers that prevent the passage of sea turtles.

"There are many problems, apart from the visible, which is the garbage on the beaches of the world, there is the economic impact on tourism and wildlife," said Lavers, who also warned that these same wastes affect humans, many of them who only care when problems are close to them.

“25 percent of marine species eat plastic, although the number is increasing each time. According to research, fish or birds ingest plastics that release toxins into their tissues, "said the expert.

"And if you eat a fish with these contaminated tissues, we are actually eating our own garbage," he said.

Photo: Researchers estimate the trash at a total of 37.7 million pieces (UNIVERSITY OF TASMANIA)

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