ONE of the most remote islands in the world is covered with almost 38 million pieces of plastic despite no one living there, Australian and international research has found.
High-density* pollution on the beaches of Henderson Island, more than 5000km from any significant human population, shows Pacific Ocean currents carry plastic debris* over huge distances without breaking down, according to the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies.
“What’s happened on Henderson Island shows there’s no escaping plastic pollution even in the most distant parts of our oceans,” IMAS researcher Dr Jennifer Lavers said.
Henderson, part of the UK’s Pitcairn Islands group, is so remote it is only visited every five to 10 years by researchers.
Located near the centre of the South Pacific Gyre* ocean current makes it a focal point* for debris carried from South America or dumped by fishing vessels into the sea.
Items found include boat buoys, rope, containers, lids, bottles and netting.
The most recent visit by IMAS, led by the British nature conservation charity RSPB, found its beaches were littered with 671 items per square metre, according to the study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Far from being the pristine* deserted island that people might imagine of such a remote place, Henderson Island is a shocking but typical example of how plastic debris is affecting the environment on a global scale.”
Sampling at five sites showed there was an estimated 17 tonnes of plastic debris larger than two millimetres on the island and more than 3570 new pieces of litter washed up each day on one beach alone.
“Plastic debris is an entanglement* and ingestion* hazard for many species, creates a physical barrier on beaches to animals such as sea turtles, and lowers the diversity of shoreline invertebrates,” Dr Lavers said.
“Research has shown that more than 200 species are known to be at risk from eating plastic, and 55 per cent of the world’s seabirds, including two species found on Henderson Island, are at risk from marine debris.”
high-density: area with lots in it
debris: bits and pieces
gyre: system of swirling ocean currents
focal point: main bit
pristine: perfect and pure
entanglement: wrapped and caught in
ingestion: swallowing and consuming
LISTEN TO TODAY’S STORY
Activity 1. Stop the plastic plague
Create a poster encouraging others to make sure they dispose of plastic waste thoughtfully. Your poster should give at least one good reason (using words or pictures, or both) to show why this is important.
Make a list of as many items as you can think of that are made of plastic and could end up in our oceans if we do not dispose of them properly.
Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Visual Arts, Ethical Capability
Activity 2. So much rubbish!
To get an idea of just how much plastic rubbish is washed up on the beach at Henderson Island, make a small model based on the figures in the article.
The article tells us that “its beaches were littered with 671 items per square metre.”
Your model will be one one-hundredth of this size, so you will need a 10cm x 10cm square of paper.
Rub a glue stick over your square of paper and sprinkle it with sand or press it into your school sand pit so that it is coated with sand.
Then collect seven pieces of plastic rubbish (we are rounding to the closest whole number).
Use PVA glue to attach your plastic rubbish to your sand square.
This is what the beach at Henderson Island must look like!
You could join your model up with your classmates to make a larger model.
Write a paragraph describing what it would be like to visit the beach at Henderson Island.
10cm x 10cm paper squares, sand, glue sticks and PVA glue and plastic rubbish.
Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum links: English, Mathematics, Science, Ethical Capability
(Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers and Punctuation)
Activity: A note from the sea
Write a letter from one of the marine animals or creatures that is being effected by all the litter. The letter is to explain what is happening to them and why. You can decide who it should be sent to, and whether the letter is to convince the audience to take action, like start cleaning up the school yard, or come to the beach and help pick up rubbish etc.
Time: allow at least 15 minutes to complete the task
Curriculum Links: English, Big Write & VCOP
Activity provided by Andrell Education www.andrelleducation.com.au
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