Plastic Pollution VS Animals

Pollution

Ever since the introduction of plastic in 1862, it has become one of the most essential parts of all of our industries. The usage of plastic is now considered to be the most convenient method for various purposes such as packing applications, containers, drums, trays, boxes, cups, baby products, water bottles and the list goes on. Over time our dependency on plastic has grown so much, that it is now considered almost impossible to visualize a completely plastic-free way of life.

However, many people have already realized the threat posed by the excessive usage of plastic and are working to raise awareness on this issue, plastic pollution. A lot of zero waste organizations have come forward and are taking drastic measures to put an end to our unhealthy reliance on plastic. But what was the need of these organizations? Well, the answer is quite simple! Plastic pollution and its deadly impacts on humans, animals and our environment. Plastic pollution is harming the animals and we need to do something about it.

Plastic Pollution

Seal trapped in plastic pollution(discarded net)
Plastic pollution generally refers to the accumulation of plastic pollutants in the environment caused by reckless human activities. Plastic pollution is not only deadly for humans but also poses a severe threat to the life of animals and their overall well-being. Quite often animals have to pay the price of our negligence towards plastic pollution and lack of effective ways to reduce it.

Every single day thousands of animals die because of plastic pollution. This is especially common in oceans, as plastic waste enters the ocean and claims the lives of innocent marine animals who mistake these toxic elements for food or at times get stuck in plastic wraps and face permanent physical damage.

What are the impacts of plastic pollution on animals?

  • Plastic can actually give animals headaches! Food containers especially those that have sharp edges get stuck in the heads of animals and cause them serious pain and injuries. Stray cats and dogs tend to easily fall victim to this problem and may suffer from permanent bodily damage and life-long disabilities.
  • Animals also have the tendency to mistake plastic for food and consume it, especially when those containers contain leftover food. This consumed plastic then causes blockage in their intestines and ultimately claims their lives. At times animals get such severe wounds that their limbs stop functioning properly.
  • Not only does getting painful plastic objects stuck around their heads or wrapped around their legs lead to scarring but it also disables the animals from carrying out the vital activities it needs to perform, simply in order to survive. With plastic wrapped around its body, no animal can go in search of food or water or run away from a hungry predator!
  • Plastic pollution does not only harm the animals on land, but is also a source of plight for those that fly like birds. Getting plastic entangled around their wings steals away their ability to fly and if their wings do not heal fast, they may struggle to even fly to the nearest tree for safety or go in search of food or drink.
  • Plastic pollution is also recognized as one of the biggest dilemmas of marine animals. The unprecedented and continuous growth of plastic accumulation is severely disrupting the marine ecosystem. The toxic chemicals present in plastic halts the growth of phytoplankton’s that are the food of fish, so due to an excessive shortage of them, many fish suffer from starvation. At times fish and other marine species die because their food demands are not fulfilled and available food is too contaminated to complete the desired nutritional values.

Now as if this wasn’t distressing enough let me share some distressing facts and figures with you that will make you think twice before disposing off plastic carelessly.

  1. The United Nations claims that at least 800 species worldwide are negatively affected by marine debris, out of which at least 80% of the litter is plastic.
  2. Research also shows that half of sea turtles worldwide have ingested plastic. Some starve to death after doing so as the weight of the plastic tricks them into believing that their stomachs are full. Sounds brutal, doesn’t it?
  3. A recent study also found that sea turtles that ingest just 14 pieces of plastic have an increased risk of death. The young are especially at risk because they are not as selective as their elders and may not think twice before eating something that ‘looks’ like food.
  4. Plastic waste is said to kill up to a million seabirds a year. Many seabirds are found dead with their stomachs full of this waste. Scientists estimate that 60 percent of all seabird species have eaten pieces of plastic, a figure they predict will rise to 99 percent by 2050. How heart-breaking is this? How much more careless and inconsiderate can we get?


What can we do to help?

Birds in plastic pollution, effect overall animals
I am sure that reading all these disturbing facts must have kindled a flame of determination to assist and cause ease for all these suffering animals. Wondering how? Just continue reading!

But before you start you must always remember that you as an individual are very powerful and your attitude towards this issue matters to every single animal that is in pain due to plastic pollution right now. If you stay focused and determined in achieving your goals, you can do wonders and make change happen. Also remember to influence the people around you, if not by your words, then with your actions and determination.

Listed below are 5 simple ways you can help reduce plastic pollution:

  1. Use reusable shopping bags
  2. The next time you go to Starbucks to get your favourite coffee, make sure to take a reusable cup along with you
  3. Avoid using bottled water as much as possible
  4. Use metal straws instead of plastic straws (they are quite fashionable too)
  5. Avoid buying clothes made from plastic

Imagine the amount of plastic pollution you can reduce and the animals you can save. Animals need our help in changing and reducing plastic pollutions. If you are interested in learning more about, this article about plastic pollution affecting marine lives is perfect.



Resources:
Reddy, Simon. “Plastic Pollution Affects Sea Life Throughout the Ocean.” The Pew Charitable Trusts. Web. 24 Nov. 2020.
               
Author: Monica Chang
On my own ethical journey since 2010. Always happy to learn more!