Floating Trash Islands Another Problem for Caribbean

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A report from the St. Kitts and Nevis Observer.

Caribbean governments are sparring over the “trash islands” floating off their shores, huge mounds of waste that include everything from plastic bottles to bags of blood.

Agence France Press reported that neighbors Honduras and Guatemala are dealing with the trash masses and, while there is some debate about who is the source of the garbage, it could come from a number of sources and is interfering with the local environment, washing up on the shores and killing animals like turtles when they eat the plastic pollution.

“We have found fish, even turtles up to a meter wide, dead after ingesting these plastics,” marine biologist Nancy Calix told AFP. And more accumulates faster than it can be cleaned up or buried.

“On Friday, we filled 20 dump trucks of 13 cubic meters (460 cubic feet) each, and it made almost no difference,” Ricardo Alvarado, mayor of the Honduran coastal town Omoa, told AFP. “We are even finding bags holding blood” from hospitals.

On Henderson Island, an uninhabited and remote location in the South Pacific Ocean, litter buries the beach in a density that is “the highest recorded anywhere in the world,” according to a recent scientific study. Every square meter of beach had an average of a few hundred pieces of debris, with thousands more in the 10 centimeters of sand immediately below the surface.

That island is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a territory of the U.K. with no inhabitants, but ocean currents carry plastic to Iand.

Previous research has shown that humans are dumping between four million and 12 million tons of plastic into the world’s oceans every year, and the demand for plastic products has only been increasing.

Nothing is safe from our garbage, not even an uninhabited island, not even space — low-Earth orbit is full of space debris that has accumulated in just the several decades since we started journeying off our planet.

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