Imagine a pristine beach as far away as possible from human civilization. No loud tourists, no giant hotels, no noisy boats. It turns out that beach exists, but it's far from being a shimmering paradise. That's because it's covered in 19 tons of trash, according to a .
The beach lies on remote Henderson Island in the South Pacific, thousands of miles from any large city. Scientists only visit the island a few times per decade, and on the most recent visit, an estimated 37 million pieces of plastic had washed up on the shore.
This 19-ton trash heap covers the entire beach, and the plastic visible on top of the sand is only a small percentage. Researchers found plastic buried under a few inches of sand, and believe there could be even deeper where they couldn't reach.
Most of the trash on the island is microplastics, small bits of plastic less than a millimeter in size. These microplastics can be from larger pieces of plastic broken apart from years in the ocean, or things like microbeads commonly found in hygiene products. Although small they're especially dangerous, killing both large and small animals alike.
Of course, plastic washing up on beaches isn't new. An enters the oceans every year and all that plastic ends up somewhere. But the most alarming thing about Henderson Island is the remoteness of it. If such a faraway place like this can become buried in trash, then no place on Earth is safe.