Henderson Island is an uninhabited coral reef in the Southeast Pacific. Coconut palms abound, crabs scuttle across the sand, birds fill the air with their cries. At first glance, it seems a dream island, untouched by man. But the secluded island has sadly become a rubbish dump in recent years: fuel canisters, plastic cutlery, drinking cups, toothbrushes and cosmetic tubes cover the beaches.
Researchers found almost 38 million plastic parts weighing a total of 17.6 metric tons on the remote island: the greatest density of plastic waste anywhere in the world. Every day, the sea washes another 13,000 items of plastic waste onto the beaches. The reason for this is Henderson Island’s location on the western edge of the South Pacific gyre, one of the most notorious garbage patches in the world’s oceans, where vast amounts of plastic gather. The waterlogged garbage from the giant whirlpools not only covers the South Sea Islands but also the shores of the North and Baltic Seas. Seabirds and sea turtles confuse the plastic parts with food and swallow them.