Researchers recorded up to 671.6 items per square meter (about 10.7 square feet), adding up to nearly 38 million pieces of trash. The trash was estimated to weigh a total of 35,200 pounds.
The island is about 6 miles long by 3 miles wide, and it's more than 3,000 miles from the nearest population center, according to the University of Tasmania. A UNESCO world heritage site, it's located by what is known as the South Pacific gyre, a vortex of currents that tends to accumulate trash.
"As global plastic production continues to increase exponentially, it will further impact the exceptional natural beauty and biodiversity for which remote islands have been recognized," researchers wrote in the study, which was published in the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.
Jennifer Lavers, the lead author of the study, described the scene to the Associated Press. She said they found a dead sea turtle that had gotten caught in a fishing net, as well as a crab that had made a cosmetics container its home.
And that's just the beginning. Researchers found that two-thirds of the trash was buried in sediment.
Even though "the hazard plastic debris poses to biodiversity is well established," researchers explained, a lack of information about trash accumulation patterns makes it harder to solve the problem.
Lavers told the Associated Press that she has switched to a bamboo toothbrush and phone case.
"We need to drastically rethink our relationship with plastic," she said. "It's something that's designed to last forever, but is often only used for a few fleeting moments and then tossed away."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.