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Gaze upon this plastic garbage island and question if capitalism is really worth it

Published May 16th, 2017 5:40PM EDT
garbage island
Image: Jennifer Lavers

Humans are just the worst, at least as far as the wellbeing of the Earth is concerned. We’ve done plenty of horrible things to this planet, but perhaps our worst misstep was inventing plastic. That water bottle you drank from this morning will outlive you, along with all the other plastic crap you’ve ever thrown away, and if it’s not properly recycled it just kind of lingers on in dumps, landfills, or, if it’s lucky (I guess?) this once pristine tropical island in the South Pacific.

Henderson Island, a small dot of dry land surrounded by long stretches of water in ever direction, is covered in plastic garbage. At just over three miles wide, it’s so small that it’s uninhabited, but it still bares the signs of humanity’s remarkable trash-making prowess. A recent visit by University of Tasmania research scientist Dr. Jennifer Lavers revealed just how much junk has piled up there, and it’s absolutely astounding.

During the expedition, Dr. Lavers and her team tallied a truly insane 38 million individual pieces of trash spread across the entirety of the island’s beaches. They found everything from cigarette lighters and toothbrushes to plastic forks, bottles, and bags. Dr. Lavers reported her team’s findings in a new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

It’s estimated that 17 tons of plastic waste currently covers the island’s beaches, with over 3,500 new pieces of garbage finding their way to its shores every single day. Please recycle your crap. Seriously.