We know that plastic is a great problem for both, the environment and human health. Nevertheless, nowadays, the first victims of plastic are land and sea animals.
Each year, millions of animals of more than 300 species eat plastic ,and 100.000 of sea mammals and 12 million seabirds die because of plastic.
Why do animals eat plastic?
Each year, 8 tons of plastics end in the ocean. We can find this plastic in various forms: from the biggest wastes to microbeads, bags and bottles.
In most cases, animals eat plastic because they mistake it for food. For example, turtles confuse plastic bags with jellyfish, one of their favorite preys.
In the same way, small bits of plastic floating in the sea can be very similar to seaweed, molluscs or small fishes. As a result, sea birds collect these bits to feed themselves and their chicks. The Midway documentary is a very good illustration of this phenomenon.
Finally, a lot of animals feed themselves by filtering water, as for whales. Their balleens, the filter-feeder system inside their mouths,is not “designed” to avoid plastic items, and unintentionally, they ingest them.
How does plastic kill animals?
Plastic can cause different kinds of threats:
- Obstruction of the digestive tract: As they eat so much plastic, animals fill their stomachs with it because they are not able to eliminate it through the natural digestive process. As their stomachs are filling up with marine debris, no space remains for the real food they need to survive. This can lead to a long and painful death caused by starvation or stomach perforations.
- Poisoning: Plastic is a porous material that, in addition to its own chemical components, absorbs toxins they come in contact with. As a result, animals are eating real “Toxic bombs” that can poison them. Furthermore, plastic release endocrine disruptors in the sea that affect the reproduction of sea animals and could speed up the extinction of some species.
- Plastic traps: We have all seen the picture of a turtle trapped in a fishing net or whose shell has been deformed by a six-pack ring. Some marine debris are very dangerous traps for animals that can hurt them or kill them by drowning, exhaustion or starvation.
For all these reasons, it is important to become aware that our plastic waste is not only a human issue, but also has a cruel impact on millions of animals.
So, let’s be responsible and reduce our plastic consumption.