Henderson Island -intolerable situation or nice opportunity?

By Nathan Barton

Freedom News Daily provides this interesting article:  Remote island has “world’s worst” plastic rubbish density, from the BBC. “An uninhabited island in the South Pacific is littered with the highest density of plastic waste anywhere in the world, according to a study. Henderson Island, part of the UK’s Pitcairn Islands group, has an estimated 37.7 million pieces of debris on its beaches. The island is near the centre of an ocean current, meaning it collects much rubbish from boats and South America. Researchers hope people will ‘rethink their relationship with plastic.’ The joint Australian and British study said the rubbish amounted to 671 items per square metre and a total of 17 tonnes. ‘A lot of the items on Henderson Island are what we wrongly refer to as disposable or single-use,’ said Dr Jennifer Lavers from the University of Tasmania.”

I do not know if they calculated out right.  If the total deposit on this item is a mere 17 tonnes (metric: 2200 pounds, or about 19 US tons), that is not even a semi-load of plastic waste: a mere 56 cubic yards of landfill space in a low-density but modern landfill.  Disposal cost would probably be about $2,800.

But there is another option.

Seems to me that someone could file (in London, I assume) the Brit equivalent of a mining claim to this unnatural deposit of plastic, go in there and mine it: dig it up, wash it (salt water would be fine), bale it and ship it.

After a quick check on line today I found prices for plastic scrap in India.  It varies based on type of plastic (PVC, HDPE, etc.) but seems to be about 100,000 rupees per ton.  The exchange rate is about 64 rupees to the US dollar, so that would be about $1,560/ton. That plastic would be worth almost $30,000 in India – and probably about the same or better in China or Vietnam.  And that would be just the first run – if the stuff is constantly being drawn to Henderson Island, you might be able to go back and mine again, year after year!

Too expensive to haul to China or India?  Probably not.  It could go as a small part of the cargo of a small merchant ship – maybe even a return cargo on a ship hauling Happy Meal toys from China to California or Melbourne. Or by a fishing vessel (trawler) or a tourist boat. Maybe as part of a vacation – Henderson looks like a neat little place to visit, about 4 x 8 miles, and beautiful cliffs and forest.

But, of course, heaven forbid that a private company possibly be able to make a profit on this and other islands’ plastic waste accumulation. No, this will be the excuse for some sort of government-run or -sponsored massive, multi-million dollar clean-up scheme.  With lots of opportunity for graft and bribes, no doubt.

But really, 19 tons?  Yeah, 38 million pieces really sounds like a lot, but it isn’t.  This is an environist’s tempest in a teacup, an attempt (and almost certainly to be a successful attempt) to motivate children and childlike adults to panic and demand “something MUST be done to save Mother Earth.”  All for the benefit of government, constantly seeking new ways to control us and steal our money.

Mama’s Note: So very true, and true for lots more than small islands. When I was about six years old, my family had occasion to visit the local “dump.” The children had to stay in the car, darn it, but the adults spent at least an hour talking with the elderly gentleman who OWNED the dump, and accompanied him around to various piles of things he’d salvaged. He sold the items cheap, didn’t charge much to let people dump their junk, and therefore made a fair living from it. I’m sure his little house would not be pleasant to live in when the wind was coming from the wrong direction, but it suited him – and the three very large German Shepherds who roamed the fenced acres at night.

Of course, in those days everyone composted their actual garbage, burned the paper and other burnable stuff at home. We didn’t have much plastic in 1951, and the whole frugality thing from the war years was still deeply embedded into most folks lives. There were few things made to be deliberately “disposable.” Durable goods were made to be durable, (imagine that!) and even repairable. But the thrift stores and the “dump” did good business recycling things the more affluent folks didn’t wish to refurbish or repair. Good deal for everyone.

I’ll bet a voluntary association of townspeople and private businesses could manage the solid waste problems of modern life far, far better than any level of non-voluntary government. If people had to pay the actual cost of that solid waste management directly, I suspect a great deal of the “problem” would vanish – and much of the waste would never be generated! But, naturally, that’s not allowed now… And most people would have to figure out a way to buy more durable goods, and give up the convenience of so much “disposable” stuff to make it work again. But, then again, someone might just find a way to make economic good use of the disposables too!

Ah, freedom. Wouldn’t it be grand?

About tpolnathan

Follower of Christ Jesus (christian), Pahasapan, Westerner, Lover of Liberty, Free-Market Anarchist, Engineer, Army Officer, Husband, Father, Historian, Writer.
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