“Degradable or compostable plastic should be banned….bio-plastics simply break down into microplastic particles”– scientist
By Stephen Leahy
HONOLULU, Hawaii, U.S., Mar 24, 2011 (IPS)
That plastic bottle or plastic take-away coffee lid that has 20 minutes of use can spend decades killing countless seabirds, marine animals and fish, experts reported here this week.
On remote Pacific island atolls, diligent albatross parents unknowingly fill their chicks’ bellies with bits of plastic that resemble food. The chicks die of malnutrition, and when their bodies decay all those plastic bottle tops, disposable lighters, and the ubiquitous bits of plastic detritus get back into the environment in a cruel perversion of ‘recycling’.
There is now so much plastic in the oceans it is likely that virtually every seabird has plastic in its belly if its feeding habits mean it mistakes plastic bits for food. The same is true for sea turtles, marine animals or fish, experts say.
Northern fulmars, a common seabird numbering in the millions, have a collective 45 tonnes worth of plastic bits in their bellies, estimates Jan Andries van Franeker, a biologist with the Institute for Marine Resources and Ecosystem Studies at the University of Wageningen in Holland.
At least 95 percent of fulmars in the North Sea where van Franeker has been working for three decades have one to several dozen bits of plastic in their stomachs. The same is true for related species like the tiny Wilson’s storm petrels, which unknowingly transport an estimated 35 tonnes of plastic from their wintering grounds in the North Atlantic to breeding grounds in the Antarctic, he says.
“If a seabird’s feeding habits mean it could mistake plastic for food, then it will likely have plastic in its stomach,” he said in an interview at the week long Fifth International Marine Debris Conference, which ends Friday in Honolulu, Hawaii. Continue reading