Valpak, the UK packaging compliance scheme, is to send a team member to join scientists on an expedition to help clean up 10 tonnes of plastic waste on a Pacific island. While there, the team will further assess the impact of the rubbish on the local environment.
The team will be traveling to Henderson Island, part of the Pitcairn group and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Located between Peru and New Zealand, the island has one of the highest densities of plastic rubbish on the planet.
Despite being one of the most remote places on Earth - the island is 3,000 miles from the nearest major land mass - an estimated 13,500 pieces of plastic litter wash up on the shore every day.
James Beard, recycling services manager at Valpak and team member, said: “Henderson Island plays a unique role in showing the scale of the marine litter problem. Despite its isolation, it is estimated to contain 38 million pieces of plastic litter which have been swept into the South Pacific Gyre.”
The 13-member team will leave for the island in June and spend four weeks in the Pitcairn Islands, culminating with the beach clean up.
Beard added: “It goes far beyond cleaning the beach, everything will be logged. We will be using bar code scanners to try to identify the source of the plastic pollution. Mandy Barker, the artist who is joining us, plans to photograph everything which is collected. We are also working to transform the waste plastic locally into a useful product.”
The expedition has been made possible by a range of partners, but especially the Pew Charitable Trusts; the Pitcairn Island Government, and; the UK’s Blue Belt Programme, which supports the UK government’s commitment to provide long-term protection of marine environments across the UK Overseas Territories.
Valpak is the largest environmental compliance scheme in the UK. In 2018, it was purchased by Reconomy, a provider of outsourced recycling and resource management services. Reconomy works across four key sectors: commercial construction, house building, infrastructure and business and industry.