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plastic is not fantastic

414 million pieces of plastic have washed up on remote Australian islands

A group of islands inhabited by just 500 people is home to more than 400 million pieces of plastic, reports CNN.

Bottle caps, straws, shoes and sandals litter the remote Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports. Among the debris are nearly one million shoes and more than 370,000 toothbrushes, which researchers say is "equivalent to what the [local] community would produce as waste in ~4000 years."

The group of 27 islands, which are touted as "Australia's last unspoilt paradise," is located just over 1,700 miles from Perth.

The leader of the study, marine eco-toxicologist Jennifer Lavers, referred to islands such as these as "canaries in a coal mine" in examining the impact of plastic pollution.

Lavers also said the estimate of over 400 million pieces of plastic was "conservative," since scientists only studied at a depth of 10 centimeters. Some "hotspot" beaches that couldn't be accessed were also left unexamined, but of the identifiable items, about 25 percent were single-use plastic items like drinking straws or plastic bags. Read more about the damage at CNN.