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414 million pieces of trash found on remote islands near Australia, study finds

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Even remote, uninhabited islands are still covered in trash, a new study found.

On the Cocos Keeling Islands, about 1300 km to the northwest of Australia, there are reportedly more than 400 million units of waste, according to the research of marine biologist Jennifer Lavers.

Lavers, of Australia, University of Tasmania, has published its findings in Scientific Reports on Thursday.

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“You get to the point where you have the feeling that not much is going to surprise you more and then do something … and that something [on the Cocos-Keeling Islands] was actually the amount of debris that was buried,” Lavers, who has done similar studies on other isolated islands, told NPR.

The Cocos Keeling Islands, a group of 27 islands in the Indian Ocean, are virtually uninhabited, except for two, according to a website for the islands. NPR said the islands just 6 square miles of land.

Marine biologist Jennifer Lavers a study published Thursday, about plastic waste that she and her colleagues found in seven of the Cocos Keeling Islands in 2017. On the photo: (A) eastern side of the South Island, (B) the north side from the Direction of the Island, (C) beach-back vegetation along the north-eastern side of the Island, (D) micro-plastics along the eastern side of the South Island.<br>
(Nature.com)

The outlet reported Lavers did her research in 2017 on seven of the islands.

According to the study, she and her colleagues opted for the Cocos Keeling Islands, because, as uninhabited places, the plastic was they would not be of the islands themselves and nobody would have been there to remove it.

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Lavers and her team reportedly highlighted sections of the beaches and counted all the plastic in these sections. They then multiplied that number by the total beach on all the islands, NPR reported.

“More than 414 million pieces of plastic waste are estimated to be currently sitting on the Cocos Keeling Islands, with a weight of a remarkable 238 tons,” Lavers told the outlet.

She said that, on the surface, she found it on “373,000 toothbrushes and around 975,000 shoes, mostly flip-flops.”

“What’s really amazing was that the deeper we went, the more plastic we were actually to find it,” she added, she says that she dug with a depth of 4 cm in the sand. She reportedly estimated that there are 380 million pieces of plastic under the surface.

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The study emphasises that the plastic waste on the Cocos Keeling Islands “is not unique,” and that, together with other coastal areas, “they reflect the acute symptoms of an otherwise rapidly increasing hazard for the environment.”

“Prevention is the key, and for that, a multi-prong approach is urgently required,” the study warned.

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