Close to a million plastic shoes, mainly flip flops are among the torrent of debris washed up on an “unspoilt paradise” in the Indian Ocean.
Scientists estimated that the beaches of Australia’s Cocos (Keeling) Islands are strewn with around 414 million pieces of plastic pollution.
They believe some 93% of it lies buried under the sand, say the researchers.
They are concerned that the scale of concealed plastic debris is being underestimated worldwide.
Nearly half the plastic manufactured since the product was developed six decades ago has been made in the past 13 years, say scientists.
Through failings in waste management, much of it has ended up in the oceans, with one estimate suggesting that there are now more pieces of plastic in the seas than there are stars in the Milky Way.
This latest assessment will add to the feeling that the world hasn’t yet fully appreciated the scale of the problem.
The research team surveyed the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, a horseshoe chain of 26 small land masses 2,100km north-west of Australia.
Around 600 people live in these remote places, which are sometimes described as “Australia’s last unspoilt paradise”.
The researchers found that oceanic currents are depositing huge amounts of plastic on the beaches of these atolls.
They calculated that the islands are littered with 238 tonnes of plastic, including 977,000 shoes and 373,000 toothbrushes. These were among the identifiable elements in an estimated 414 million pieces of debris.
The scientists believe their overall finding is conservative, as they weren’t able to access some beaches known to be hotspots of pollution.
Of particular concern to the authors of the report is the amount of material they believe is buried up to 10cm below the surface. This accounted for around 93% of the estimated volume.
The lead author Jennifer Lavers told BBC News that, based on