A new study shows a stomach-turning future for sea birds if the world continues its plastic addiction.
New research from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and Imperial College, London shows that, most likely, 90 percent of all sea birds today have ingested plastic, compared to 80 percent in 2012 and less than 5 percent in 1960. And at the rate things are going, by the time 2050 rolls around 99% of all sea birds will have eaten plastic.
The reason? Much of our plastic waste winds up in the ocean, where it remains as nonbiodegradable “bait” for ocean-dwelling species. Birds mistake brightly colored plastic in the water for food, and gobble it down without realizing that they’re actually eating poison. As a result, the birds become sick; many die from plastic ingestion.
Penguins, albatrosses and other birds that fish for their dinner are especially at risk. And sadly, International Bird Rescue reports that many birds are already dying slow, painful deaths from eating plastic.
Plastics absorb toxic chemicals like DDT and PCBs, so they pack a super-poisonous punch when swallowed. Even plastics they don’t eat pose a threat to birds, who are often strangled by bottles and other plastic packaging.
The good news is that it’s not too late to reverse the trend. Even if we can’t clean up the trash that already pollutes the ocean, we can do our best to reduce plastic waste in the future.
“Improving waste management can reduce the threat plastic is posing to marine wildlife,” said Dr. Denise Hardesty of CSIRO. “Even simple measures can make a difference, such as reducing packaging, banning single-use plastic items or charging an extra fee to use them, and introducing deposits for recyclable items like drink containers.”
International Bird Rescue recommends cutting back on all disposable plastic products, reusing and recycling plastic containers, taking reusable shopping bags to the grocery store and volunteering for beach cleaning events. Also please sign the Lady Freethinker petition to make Keurig disposable coffee pods biodegradeable — these K-cups created enough plastic waste in 2014 to circle the Earth 12 times.