May 16 (UPI) -- A remote, uninhabited South Pacific island thousands of miles from civilization has the highest density of garbage anywhere in the world -- 37 million pieces of washed-up trash, researchers said.
The beaches of Henderson Island in the Pitcairn Island group, an 18 square-mile chain of British-controlled islands 3,100 miles away from the nearest town, have filled with 17.6 tons of mostly plastic trash.
Jennifer Lavers, marine exotoxicologist of Australia's University of Tasmania, said litter can be found all over the island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
"The human footprint is everywhere, and it runs deeper than most of us imagine," she wrote.
A report by Lavers and Alexander Bond of the Royal Society for the Conservation of Bird, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, said about 5 trillion pieces of discarded plastic are floating in the Earth's oceans -- and some of it's washing up in pristine and ecologically fragile places, like Henderson Island.
The trash is carried by ocean currents from long distances to arrive at the Pitcairn chain, the study said.
"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 statement. "Far from being the pristine 'deserted island' that people might imagine of such a remote place, Henderson Island is a shocking but typical example of how plastic debris is affecting the environment on a global scale."