414 mn pieces of plastic found on remote islands

James Marshall
May 20, 2019

A whopping 414 million pieces of plastic - including almost a million shoes and more than 370,000 toothbrushes - have washed up on the beaches of the tiny Cocos Islands, touted as "Australia's last unspoiled paradise", a new study revealed.

The rubbish weighs an estimated 238 tonnes and includes 977,000 discarded shoes and 373,000 old tooth brushes.

During a similar study carried out in the year 2017, on the Fanderson Island in the Southern Pacific Ocean it was revealed that there were 38 million pieces of plastic and they weighed 17 tons.

After a further comprehensive survey of the washed up waste, a staggering 414m pieces of plastic waste weighing 238 tonnes was discovered on one of the most remote places on earth. A study published in the journal "Nature" revealed that the exponential increase of global plastic pollution was due to the use of single-use plastic products.

"Plastic pollution is now ubiquitous in our oceans, and remote islands are an ideal place to get an objective view of the volume of plastic debris now circling the globe", she added.

Thousands of pounds of man-made trash wash up each year at Kamilo Point, on the southeast side of the Big Island.

The numbers are among the highest reported on remote islands, but underestimate the true amount of debris present, and should be interpreted as "minimum estimates", according to the study.

"While the five oceanic gyres or "garbage patches" tend to garner a lot of research and media attention, the Cocos Islands are not located near or within one of these gyres", she said.

At least a quarter of that material is single-use plastics, like food packaging.

As the researchers collected samples down to a depth of 10 centimeters on the beach, and were unable to access some debris "hot spots", the estimate is likely to be conservative, explained Jennifer Lavers, the lead author of the study and a research scientist at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania, in Australia. "An estimated 12.7m tonnes of plastic entered our oceans in 2010 alone, with around 40% of plastics entering the waste stream in the same year they're produced", another report said.

Co-author Dr Annett Finger from Victoria University said global production of plastic continues to increase, with nearly half of the plastic produced over the past 60-years manufactured in the last 13-years. Altogether, estimates suggest that there are now more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic debris in our oceans.

'Plastic pollution is a well-documented threat to wildlife and its potential impact on humans is a growing area of medical research'. However, the only applicable solution is to lower the plastic manufacturing and consumption and at the same time enhancing debris management to stop the pieces of plastic enter the oceans to begin with, researchers say.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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