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Plastic is for the Birds

July 12, 2012

Eva Gusnowski

Animals eat weird things. Goats eat whatever resembles plants including cardboard, license plates have been found in the stomachs of tiger sharks, and when I was little I remember my cat eating an entire shoelace (which did, ultimately, come out the other end). Of course this then begs the question as to whether animals should be eating weird shit from human life. (P.s. I’m not a doctor, but the answer is probably “No”)

A recently published study out of the University of British Columbia (my newfound edumucation home) has been looking at the stomach contents of dead Northern fulmars, a type of seabird, along the Pacific coast near British Columbia, Washington and Oregon. Now, these authors weren’t just interested in what the fated birds’ last meals were. Instead what they were looking at was the amount of and number of plastic pieces that were ingested by the birds prior to death.

 


What they found was a disgustingly high number of pieces of plastic, which in fact was the highest number of plastic pieces ever found in these birds in the world. The average number of pieces was 36.8, which is equivalent to about 0.385 g of plastic. This might not seem like a significant weight to a human, but just think if you were the size of a seabird in order to put it in perspective. The plastic contents ranged everywhere from styrofoam to candy wrappers (See? Weird things). The authors also showed a disturbing trend, demonstrating that over the past 40 years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of plastic pieces ingested by this species of bird.

 

                  It might eat rocks, but the Northern fulmar shouldn't be eating our plastic garbage.



So what can we, the people responsible, do about it? I’ve thought about a few suggestions, and they’re definitely not new:

1) Stop littering. I’m directing this at the guy I saw throw candy wrappers out of his car window yesterday...seriously, there are garbage cans literally everywhere nowadays. Even your car would have sufficed as a trash disposal considering the shape it looked to be in;
2) Recycle. It’s not rocket science, it’s a blue bin;
3) Get this little beauty of a machine someday that turns plastic into usable oil (once it becomes easily available to the public, of course);
4) Listen to David Suzuki. That dude knows the nature of things. And is all kinds of awesome <3

When all is said and done, what we need is to make positive changes in the amount of plastic that is produced, used and disposed of in the world. I took reusable bags to the grocery store last night; what are you doing to help out the Northern fulmar? Because, really, who can resist this face...

 

northern fulmar, science in seconds

          Stop feeding me plastic!  CaCaw!!

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