When Jennifer Lavers first arrived at the remote collection of tiny islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean, she saw all the makings of a “quintessential tropical oasis.”
Beneath the waves, abundant coral reefs teemed with marine life. Clear turquoise water lapped against pristine white sand beaches lined with palm trees. Home to roughly 600 people and located about 1,300 miles off the coast of Western Australia, the Cocos (Keeling) Islands are touted as “Australia’s last unspoilt paradise.”
But upon further exploration during a 2017 trip, Lavers, a researcher with the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, and her fellow scientists came across a starkly different sight — stretches of beach littered with an estimated 414 million pieces of garbage, a majority of which was buried underneath the sand. Almost all of it consisted of plastic items such as straws, toothbrushes and shoes, according to a study published last week in the journal Scientific Reports. Read on.