An article from Business Insider that recently went viral on social media sites detailed a small island in the South Pacific, Henderson Island, that, while uninhabited, has been found to be one of the planet’s the most polluted places. Indeed, it was deemed by scientists to have the highest density of ‘anthropogenic debris’ anywhere in the world. In plain English, this means it is loaded with trash. This is not from dumping, however, but is due to the amount of plastics that have washed up on its shores, which appear almost unwalkable due to all the refuse. We are talking about almost 38 million pieces of waste, for a total of 17.6 tonnes, according to the article. To make matters worse, Henderson Island is actually a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It is abundantly clear that releasing plastic waste into the seas and oceans is not a good thing. While it may disappear from sight in the short term, it frequently resurfaces in the bellies of fish, or around a dolphin’s snout, or tangling up the birds that feed from sea-life. There is no shortage of harrowing videos or photos circulating depicting the suffering caused to waterways and wildlife by our improperly disposed of man-made pollution.
But plastics are not the sole problem. In addition to developing environment friendly materials, individual societies across the world need to address the problem of the proper recycling of plastics. Plastic, though frequently thought of as disposable, is actually highly re-usable, and discarded plastics can be formed into new materials and different products. Many countries have strict recycling policies that encourage the collection of disposed of plastics for recycling.
It is clear that industry, consumers, and governments need to work together to deal better with plastic waste. Education about recycling and proper disposal may go a long way in cleaning up a problem that affects everyone. For the sake of Henderson Island and all our shared planet, it is time to use, reuse, and dispose of plastics properly.