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Expedition team embark to world’s most plastic polluted island

Henderson Island in the South Pacific has the highest density of plastic debris in the world. Around 3 500 – 13 500 new plastic items wash up here every day. The island’s East Beach is polluted by 30 million plastic items.

In early June, a team will embark to Henderson Island’s East Beach to help clean-up, and raise awareness of plastic pollution through science and art.

Above: East Beach disposables. Photo: Jennifer Lavers.

As an uninhabited island, Henderson is one of the world’s largest marine reserves. Despite achieving World Heritage status for its coral and wildlife, it has the world’s highest density of trash, with >18 tonnes of plastic on its beaches, equating to over one million pieces per square kilometre. The plastic was not dumped here by hand, but washed ashore via the South Pacific Gyre; an oceanic system of currents.

In the beginning of June, a team of scientists, journalists, artists, film-makers and a beach-clean up group will set sail on the Bravo Supporter to Henderson Island. During their 20-day excursion, the focus will be on East Beach, to study the plastic, and clean up around 10 tonnes of waste.

Some parts of this beach have densities of 850 pieces per square metre; the highest density of beach plastic debris found on any remote island in the world, as reported by RSPB.

The issue of plastic pollution will be shared through art and media, with the help of world renowned artist Mandy Barker.

Her photography involving marine plastic debris has received global recognition.

She will work with scientists to highlight harmful impacts of this pollution on life.​

Right: Crab in Avon cosmetic bottle. Photo: Jennifer Lavers.

The expedition team will raise awareness of plastic pollution, not only for Henderson Island, but our worldwide oceans.

Overarching objectives will be:-

  • Study the plastic pollution on Henderson Island and raise awareness of the waste in the context of the global problem of ocean plastics; 

  • Study and raise awareness of the Henderson marine environment – promoting the Pitcairn Island Marine Reserve and the benefits of large, fully protected marine areas. 

Working alongside the Pitcairn Island community, the main aim of the collaboration is to study the plastic pollution on Henderson Island and raise awareness of Pitcairn’s natural environment. Following the expedition, a series of projects will communicate this to the public.

Above: Entangled turtle on Henderson Island. Photo: Jennifer Lavers.

Henderson Island provides a clear example of the scale of plastic pollution in our oceans. Previous studies, and this coming expedition in June ‘19, encourages us to address the plastic pollution problem in our oceans, by the way we consume products and manage waste on land.

Within the team, Brett Howell (Howell Conservation Fund) will lead the beach clean-up group on East Beach. You can keep up to date with him (@BrettWHowell) via Twitter and Instagram.

After the return of the expedition team, Brett will let us know how the expedition went, and tell us more about the initiative in an upcoming issue of NatureVolve digital magazine.

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