We use plastic day in and day out, but we seldom see the impact that this has on our wildlife.
A recent BBC initiative called Plastics Watch is investigating the impacts of plastic pollution on the environment.
What they found was that it’s killing droves of seabirds who nest on Lord Howe Island off the coast of Australia. Apparently, the birds are dying because their stomachs are so full of plastic.
The birds were found to not have any room for food in their stomachs because they were so stuffed with plastic.
As a result, they are starving to death.
“These birds are generalist predators. They’ll eat just about anything they’re given. That’s what’s allowed them to thrive – a lack of pickiness,” marine biologist Dr. Jennifer Lavers told BBC. “But when you put plastic in the ocean, it means they have no ability to detect plastic from non-plastic, so they eat it.”
The parent birds end up feeding plastic to their babies without knowing it. Then their babies emerge from the burrows with plastic-filled stomachs.
Now researchers are trying to help the babies by extracting the plastic from them.
“If the amount of plastic is not so significant, we use a process called lavage, where we flush or wash the stomach – without harming the bird,” Lavers explains.
Liz Bonnin, the series’ presenter said she was disturbed by how much junk came out of those birds.
“It was shocking to see how much would come out of one chick. We saw I think 90 pieces come out of one of the chicks on the second night,” said Bonnin.”But the scientists were telling us they sometimes pull out 200 or 250 pieces of plastic out of dead birds or from the regurgitation. It’s obscene when you think about it.”
Those working with the birds find that this preventable situation is quite emotional when you see it up close.
“It’s so upsetting to think this bird has been reared by its parents, it’s been fed and it should have a chance to go to sea but it’s died,” said Ian Hutton, a naturalist and museum curator on Lord Howe Island, told The Sydney Morning Herald. “When you cut the stomach open and pull out the plastic, some people actually cry when they see it.”
Mass production of plastic began in the 1950s. It gets tossed into waterways, carried by stormwater and winds, and lost overboard from boats.
Its long lifespan has caused it to overwhelmed rivers and oceans.
You’ll see animals eat everything from toothpaste, pen lids, plastic toys, aerosol tops, shampoo bottles, and other plastic items. The chemicals from the plastic leach into their bloodstream.
As a result, Brisbane City Council has banned the use of plastic straws, single-use plastic bottles, and helium balloons from their council events.
In addition to recycling, scientists hope that people will ban these items, recycle, and help cut down on plastic waste in waterways.
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