Pohoiki beach in Hawaii is already polluted with plastic despite being only one year old

The newly formed beach is awash with microplastics

Hawaii's Pohoiki beach is just one year old but it is already polluted by plastic from the ocean. Courtesy Flickr / Matt McGee
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A newly created beach on the Big Island is already suffering from plastic pollution, despite having existed for only 12 months.

Pohoiki Beach in Hawaii may look beautifully pristine to the naked eye, but scientists have discovered it is filled with hundreds of tiny microplastics.

The beach was formed when lava from an eruption of Kilauea stopped just a few hundred metres off the east coast of Pohoiki island. The seawater cooled the lava, which turned in to black sand and formed Pohoiki beach, which runs 300 metres along the Hawaiian coastline.

Today, that sand is already filled with pieces of plastic.

The tiny particles are believed to have washed ashore from polluted oceans. They were discovered by a student at the University of Hawaii at Hilo, who was gathering samples for a completely different experiment. Nic Vanderzyl found 21 plastic bits per every 50 grams of sand.

Steven Colbert, Vanderzyl's mentor at the university, told National Geographic: "I didn't want to find (the plastic) ... but I really wasn't surprised. There's this romantic idea of the remote tropical beach, clean and pristine ... That kind of beach doesn't exist anymore."

Plastic oceans

Studies have proven that microplastics damage marine life by diminishing their urge to eat, altering feeding behaviour, reducing growth and reproductive output.

It's yet another alarming discovery in the world's plastic crisis. Plastics, including microplastics, have washed ashore on some of the world's most remote beaches, often uninhabited by humans.

Elsewhere in Hawaii, Kamilo Beach already found unwanted fame years ago when it became known as Plastic Beach. The former white sandy shoreline occupies a unique position in relation to ocean currents and wind patterns, factors that turned it into the graveyard for the world’s ocean pollution – more than 90 per cent of which consists of plastic.