Once called “Heaven on Earth” by those who traveled there, the Cocos islands are being buried under plastic waste. Veuer’s Tony Spitz has the details.
Buzz60Story HighlightsPlastic ocean trash could last for centuries.Plastic items accounted for over 95% of all debris recorded on the Cocos Islands.The trash included an estimated 373,000 toothbrushes.We know trash is everywhere on Earth, all the way from the top of Mount Everest to the very bottom of the ocean.Now, giant mounds of it are even washing up on the shores of otherwise pristine tropical islands in the Indian Ocean, a new study said.A mind-boggling 400 million pieces of trash – that’s 260 tons – were recently discovered on the beaches of the remote Cocos Keeling Islands, a chain some 1,300 miles northwest of Australia. The trash included an estimated 373,000 toothbrushes and 977,000 shoes, according to the study. The research was conducted by Jennifer Lavers, a marine biologist from Australia’s University of Tasmania, who told NPR that she was “flabbergasted” by the amount of trash there, and also that so much was buried:”What was really quite amazing was that the deeper we went,” she said, “the more plastic we were actually finding.” Mounds of garbage washed up on the shores of Direction Island, one of the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean. (Photo: Silke Stuckenbrock)Plastic items accounted for over 95% of all debris recorded on the Cocos, a group of 26 tiny islands that are a territory of Australia.According to the study, “of the identifiable items, 25% were classified as disposable plastics, including straws, bags, and toothbrushes. Debris buried up to 4 inches below the surface is estimated to account for 93% (383 million items) of all debris present on Cocos Keelings, the majority of which (60%) is comprised of micro-debris (2–5 millimeters).” 977,000 shoes washed up on the shores of a remote tropical island chain in the Indian Ocean. (Photo: Silke Stuckenbrock)Lavers said to NPR that “you get to the point where you’re feeling that not much is going to surprise you anymore, and then something does … and that something [on the Cocos Keeling Islands] was actually the amount of debris that was buried.”This was the first comprehensive study of debris on the tiny island chain, Lavers said.Plastic is abundant in and near the world’s oceans: Every year, an estimated 8 million to 12 million metric tons of plastics enter our ocean on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that are already in our marine environments, according to the Ocean Conservancy.More: World’s highest dump? Mount Everest is covered in tons of trash and dead bodiesMore: Deepest dump? American explorer spots plastic garbage in world’s deepest oceanSince plastic has been around only since the 1950s, there’s no way of knowing exactly how long it will last in the ocean. If left alone, the plastic could remain there for decades, centuries or even longer. What can be done? “Prevention is key,” the study concluded, primarily focused on limiting plastic production and consumption “and effective waste management that prevents the entry of plastic items into the ocean at the source.”The study was published Thursday in the peer-reviewed British journal Scientific Reports.Trash is seen behind the beach on the northeast side of Home Island, one of the Cocos Islands. (Photo: Silke Stuckenbrock)Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/05/16/trash-washes-up-remote-cocos-islands-indian-ocean-near-australia/3684479002/