Remote and uninhabited Henderson Island is believed to have the highest density of plastic waste in the world, a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has said. Categorised as a coral atoll by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, Henderson Island is part of the South Pacific’s Pitcairn Islands group and has an estimated 37.7 million pieces of debris on its beaches.

The study was a collaboration the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies and the Centre for Conservation Science at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The team found an average of 671 items of waste per square metre and a total of 17 tonnes. The island is near the centre of an ocean current that collects litter from vessels in the vicinity and garbage from South America.

The team said the island is visited as rarely as once in five to ten years for research purposes. “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,” study lead author Jennifer Lavers, a researcher at the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies said. Live Science quoted Lavers who said the debris could be much above the estimated amount.

Researchers hope people will “rethink their relationship with plastic”. The study said the island and others like it may be sinks for the increasing amount of waste generated. The plastic, particularly the litter, was destroying ecosystems in the region.