A Plastic Paradise

At the far edges of the world,

Hidden deep amongst the

Raging seas and rising waves

Laze a series of secret atolls and coral coves;

Remote islands that are almost entirely

Untouched by human hands.

Untouched by human hands,

But maimed by the detritus that those hands have wrought.

As coffee lids and toothbrushes

Bathe shamelessly on previously pristine shores,

Ancient bottles of Lilt roll across the dunes –

Their dirty emerald hues diffracting the sun’s light

Across our filthy plastic paradise.

Shampoo bottles and silicon chips rub callously

Against sands that will never again be white.

The carrier bags begin to coalesce,

Contorting to create impossible structures of

Fabricated indifference,

As plastic straws pair up to join in this

Two-fingered gesture to consequence.

These islands were our canary,

One that we had no intention of saving

From artificial asphyxiation,

And which now lies silent

At the far edges of the world;

Untouched by human hands.

Human-made plastic debris at various locations on the Cocos Islands in March 2017 (Image Credit: J.L. Lavers et al.).

This poem is inspired by recent research which has found an estimated 414 million pieces of plastic debris on Australia’s remote Cocos Islands.

The Cocos Islands are located in the middle of the Indian Ocean, 2750 km northwest of Perth. Remote islands such as the Cocos Islands don’t have large human populations depositing rubbish nearby, and are therefore an indicator of the amount of plastic waste that is currently circulating in the world’s oceans.

This new research conducted a comprehensive survey of plastic debris on the Cocos Islands, estimating that in total there are currently 414 million human-made plastic items littering the Islands, weighing in at 238 tonnes. Of the identifiable items, approximately 25% were classified as disposable plastics, including straws, bags, and toothbrushes, with the majority of the waste (around 60%) being made up of microplastics, i.e. those between 2-5 mm in diameter. This research has highlighted that action is urgently required, which as well as involving effective waste management should also focus on strategies designed to limit plastic production in the first instance.

An audio version of this poem can be heard here:

2 thoughts on “A Plastic Paradise”

  1. It’s really sad to see this. I’m seeing more companies move away from plastic packaging, which is encouraging, but it sometimes feels like too little too late.

    • I agree. But I think that trying to cut down on plastic production is the only tenable solution. So sad though.

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