Want to see what 30 million pieces of plastic on a beach looks like? Visit this island.

Henderson Island should be the remote island paradise of your dreams. Instead, it looks like this:

It wasn't the locals (the island is uninhabited) or any bullheaded tourists who left the rubbish there. Henderson Island sits the middle of the South Pacific, more than 3,000 miles away from Australia, New Zealand, and South America.

It's so far removed that when researcher Jennifer Lavers went there in 2015, it took two planes and convincing a passing freight ship to make a detour, The Atlantic reported.


It's not exactly a spring break trip to Cabo.

And yet the island is home to millions of pieces of trash. An estimated 37.7 million, to be specific. Most of it is plastic, a vast collection of little green army men, red Monopoly motels, cigarette lighters, and discarded toothbrushes.

So who the hell put all that plastic there?

The answer is all of us. We all did.

Photo from Jennifer Lavers/AP Photos.

Henderson Island sits near the middle of the South Pacific ocean gyre, which is a gigantic circle of ocean currents that pick up trash from all across the ocean. Henderson's just an unfortunate obstacle in the way.

“What’s happened on Henderson Island shows there’s no escaping plastic pollution even in the most distant parts of our oceans," Lavers said in a press release.

"Henderson Island is a shocking but typical example of how plastic debris is affecting the environment on a global scale," Lavers said. She and a team of six other people stayed on Henderson for three and a half months to document the pollution. They published their findings this month in a new scientific paper.

This is one island, but it shows how bad the problem is. A 2015 study estimated we could be dumping more than 10 billion pounds of plastic into the ocean each year. Plastic pollution can harm or even kill sea life and can affect human health.

If we don't change something, every beach in the world could eventually look like Henderson Island.

Photo from Jennifer Lavers/University of Tasmania.

We shouldn't lose hope. Whether it's gigantic plastic-collecting pontoons, solar-powered trash-gobblers, beach cleanups, or getting fishermen to nab old, floating nets out of the water, there are ways we can still try to fix this.

Of course, maybe the place to start is to be smarter about how we use plastic in the first place (Lavers herself was so appalled that she's switched to a bamboo iPhone case and toothbrush, the AP reported).

But we need to be aware of what's at stake. Because if this can happen to a deserted island, it can happen at home too.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
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Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

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via Witty Buttons / Twitter

Back in 2017, when white supremacist Richard Spencer was socked in the face by someone wearing all black at Trump's inauguration, it launched an online debate, "Is it OK to punch a Nazi?"

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It's interesting to step back and look at how much has changed just in our own lifetimes, which is why Merriam-Webster's Time Traveler tool is so fun to play with. All you do is choose a year, and it tells you what words first appeared in print that year.

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