Remote South Pacific island has highest levels of plastic rubbish in the world

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The beaches of World Heritage-listed Henderson Island, in the Pitcairn Group off South America, contain an estimated 37.7 million items of debris together weighing 17.6 tonnes, a new study has revealed.

Australian researcher Dr Jennifer Lavers said it meant the island had the highest density of plastic rubbish anywhere in the world.

She said the finding, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was a wake-up call to the world that plastic pollution was as grave a threat to humanity as climate change.

Annual production of plastic has increased from 1.7 million tonnes in 1954 to 311 million tonnes in 2014.

This has resulted in an estimated five trillion plastic items — mostly less than five millimetres in size — circulating in the surface layer of the world’s oceans.

To understand how much debris was accumulating on the remote island, Dr Lavers, a conservation…

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