Trash Isn’t Just A Problem For Henderson Island, It’s Everywhere
The uninhabited Henderson Island has gained a lot of attention because of the fact that it has no people, but lots of trash.
A recent study determined that the island has become a dumping ground for plastic refuse. Unfortunately, it’s not alone. Here are just a few examples of seemingly pristine locales that have become polluted by humanity’s waste.
The Mariana Trench: The Mariana Trench is the deepest part of the ocean and, as such, one would expect it to be free from humanity’s touch, but that is not the case. A study has discovered that sea life living in the trench were found to have high levels of cancer-causing pollutants in their bodies.
Ironically, the isolated nature of the Mariana Trench is part of the reason that these pollutants often end up there.
“[These chemicals] don’t like water, and so they will stick to things in the water like plastic, and then that plastic will settle,” said the study’s co-author Stuart Piertney. “Because these deep-sea trenches are the very bottom of the sink for the oceans, there’s a sort of inevitability that they’re going to end up there.”
We know less about the depths of the ocean than we do the surface of the moon, but this serves as a reminder that our actions have consequences regardless of whether we are aware of them.
“The fact that we found such extraordinary levels of these pollutants in one of the most remote and inaccessible habitats on Earth really brings home the long-term, devastating impact that mankind is having on the planet,” said co-author Alan Jamieson.
Hawaii’s Northwestern Islands: Hawaii is a tropical paradise and one of the world’s top vacation spots, but it also has a string of uninhabited islands. Those islands serve as a wildlife refuge for many types of marine life, but, like Henderson Island, they too have became littered with trash.
The problem has gotten so bad that the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has organized cleanup efforts. A recent expedition uncovered more than 57 tons of garbage. In addition to polluting the water and ruining the area’s natural beauty, the trash, which is mostly plastic, is dangerous to the local wildlife.
The debris, which includes lighters, bottle caps, and other hard plastic items, are often mistaken for food by seabirds, which will feed the trash to their offspring.
Smaller debris isn’t the only problem facing these islands. Despite the fact that fishing is prohibited in wildlife sanctuaries, lost nets and lines that often end up in the area can kill larger marine life such as dolphins or sea turtles.
Plastic Is The Problem: In the case of both Henderson and Hawaii, the bulk of the discarded trash is made of plastic. Every year, roughly 8 million tons of plastic waste ends up the in ocean. This waste is then caught up in gyres that carry the garbage to remote locations.