Image: Henderson Island

April 20, 2018, European Space Agency
Credit: contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2018), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Henderson Island lies in the South Pacific, about halfway between New Zealand and Chile. As one of the best examples of a coral atoll, Henderson Island is a UN World Heritage site and one of the world's biggest marine reserves. However, while this remote, uninhabited, tiny landmass may look idyllic and untouched by humans, it's one of the most plastic-polluted places on Earth.

It is estimated that around 10 million tonnes of plastic ends up in the oceans every year. Carried by currents, it can form rubbish patches or eventually be washed up on shores far from where it entered the ocean. On Henderson, for example, items from as far afield as Russia, USA, Europe and South America have been found.

Ocean plastic has serious consequences for wildlife and the environment. Marine animals not only get caught up in this plastic but also ingest it. Even when it has been broken down into microfragments by weathering and waves, it still endangers animals and also enters the food chain, with unknown long-term consequences for animal life and our own health.

Celebrated every 22 April since 1970, Earth Day demonstrates support for environmental protection. This year, Earth Day is dedicated to providing information and inspiration needed to change our attitude towards plastic.

Explore further: No escaping ocean plastic: 37 million bits of litter on one of world's remotest islands

Related Stories

Diver films rubbish wasteland in Bali waters

March 8, 2018

Millions of tourists are drawn to Bali's palm-fringed scenery and rich marine life, but a British diver has released stark footage highlighting a growing problem in its famously crystal-clear waters: plastic rubbish.

ESA testing detection of floating plastic litter from orbit

March 20, 2018

The millions of tonnes of plastic ending up in the oceans every year are a global challenge. ESA is responding by looking at the detection of marine plastic litter from space, potentially charting its highest concentrations ...

Taiwan to ban disposable plastic items by 2030

February 22, 2018

Taiwan is planning a blanket ban on single-use plastic items including straws, cups and shopping bags by 2030, officials said Thursday, with restaurants facing new restrictions from next year.

Recommended for you

Afromontane forests and climate change

January 17, 2019

In the world of paleoecology, little has been known about the historical record of ecosystems in the West African highlands, especially with regard to glacial cycles amidst a shifting climate and their effects on species ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.