When you think of tropical, secluded islands, what comes to mind? White sands, clear water, and strong cocktails, right? That’s how it should be. But one of the world’s most secluded, uninhabited islands is actually the most polluted island in the world, and the images will make you sick.
Henderson Island, which is a territory of the United Kingdom is 3,000 miles away from any city and just 14.5 square miles. It’s the home of the endangered Henderson Crake and Petrel (which are rare little birds) and the endangered green turtle. It should be the kind of faraway, sunny island Olivia Pope would escape to to sit in the sun. Instead a researcher, Jennifer Lavers of the University of Tasmania, found 17 tons of plastic trash.
And 68 percent of it is buried underneath the sand. It’s gross. There are little hermit crabs walking around with plastic Avon face cream jars on their heads, and although that looks like a cute opening to a Disney movie, it’s not really funny when you realize that all the wildlife is living in toxic plastic that people thousands of miles away tossed. The island is super remote — Lavers had to take five planes just to get there. She told The Daily Mail, “It’s well off the tourist track, it’s not on any shipping or transport routes and there are no commercial fishing operations in the area.”
So all of that plastic has just washed up from, well, probably places a lot of us have been to. The island is so remote that we could totally just ignore it. But you don’t un-see trash like that. The last visit to the island was by researchers (who are the only people allowed on the island) in 2011, who were shocked then by the amount of plastic. It increases like seven or eight percent every year, and there’s never been a clean up operation.
That’s kind of the worst part — there’s not a lot that can be done.
Sure, the researchers can try to organize something and start somewhere but, Lavers said, once plastic is in the ocean and washing back and forth on these tiny islands, there’s no way to collect it with current technology.
Lavers said, “You need to bring it down to a realistic level with realistic, manageable targets or people get overwhelmed and shut off.” Which means reducing your plastic waste. Like, for example, Lavers saw tons (literally) of plastic toothbrushes on the beach. You can switch to a bamboo toothbrush next time, which does the same thing, but isn’t toxic after you throw it out, so if it ends up in the ocean, it’s not so bad. Plastic bags are a biggie, too, so switching to a mesh or canvas tote is essential.
It’s not easy to reduce your waste, we totally get it. But think about that stupid little hermit crab with his head stuck in your moisturizer jar on one of the world’s prettiest beaches next time you’re making a choice about what to do with your trash. He obviously can’t help himself.