Nature

The Ongoing Devastating Results for Animals in a Plastic World

By Robin Mei - November 28, 2016
Credits: Clean up efforts are needed, but more focus is required on the sources of ocean pollution.

Plastic Was Created With No Environmental Foresight

Credits: Single use plastics such as soda bottles and straws are deadly to marine life.

Is there a sadder sight than an animal trapped in plastic in its natural habitat? Unfortunately, many devastating images of threatened animals can be seen all over the world due to our ruthless neglect of nature and Mother Earth.

This image shows a beautiful a loggerhead turtle wrapped up in an old discarded plastic fishing net not far from the coast of Spain. If the photographer didn’t find it, this loggerhead would have died there for sure.

Source: For Animals, Plastic Is Turning the Ocean Into a Minefield

Fishing Nets Can Be Deadly

Credits: The planet's oceans are being deluged with hundreds of thousand of tons worth of plastics each year.

Abandoned plastic fishing nets floating in seas and oceans are endangering many animal species, including seals, sea turtles, whales and dolphins

According to World Animal Protection, Earth’s oceans swallow a terrifying 640,000 tons (1.28 billion pounds) of fishing gear each year.

These traps are often fatal for the residents of the planet’s waterways. If we, as responsible human beings, don’t do anything about it, the world as we know it will be a vastly different place.

Source: The Impact Of Abandoned Ocean Fishing Nets On Marine Life

700 Different Species Are Harmed by Ocean Plastics

Credits: Plastic rings have been an issue for decades, and some beach clean-ups have seen substantial numbers of them collected in only hours.

When first manufactured in back the 1960s, no one could have guessed that plastic six-pack rings would do so much harm to our planet’s wildlife.

It is true that the plastic rings which hold together our favorite beverages represent only a tiny part of the total plastic waste, but they are still responsible for crippling and killing animals across the globe.

This poor duck doesn’t really stand much chance of getting long-lasting and cheerful life with those rings around her head.

Source: Are Plastic Six-Pack Rings Still Ensnaring Wildlife?

It's Not Just Plastic Bags That Are a Threat

Credits: Scientists are now finding sea creatures with stomachs full of microplastics.

Every time we reach for a plastic bag, a beautiful creature dies somewhere in the world. This may be slightly exaggerated, but unfortunately it’s not that far from the truth.

The floating plastic medusas that humans create are continually threatening to species of sharks and whales, amongst inhabitants of the world’s oceans.

Even worse than visible plastic waste is the microplastic these whales and sharks swallow in enormous amounts while feeding on plankton and other smaller creatures.

Source: Our Plastic Trash Is Killing Whales and Sharks

Delicate Ecosystems Are Suffering

Credits: Ingested plastics can cause blockages and severe internal injuries.

Sea turtles can be found in most warm waters all over the world. Some of those waters they just use as their nesting grounds, while others are the sea turtles’ feeding spots.

They often migrate between the two for as much as 2,250 kilometers (about 1400 miles), and studies now show that a sea turtle has a one in five chance of dying if it consumes even a single piece of plastic.

Source: ‘A single piece of plastic’ can kill sea turtles, says study

Many Items Are Death Traps

Credits: Not only are birds directly the victim of plastic pollution, the fish they feed on are too. Image: Andrea Westmoreland

Some sources state that plastic pollution is directly responsible for the deaths of millions of seabirds every year.

Birds that live by the sea or ocean and feed on marine life are at constant risk of ingesting a plastic item instead of a fish when they dive into the water for a meal.

Most of that plastic ends up in their stomach and kills them from within, while some pieces cripple their beaks and in turn leaves them starving to death.

Source: These 5 Marine Animals Are Dying Because of Our Plastic Trash … Here’s How We Can Help

Marine Pollution Isn't Limited to Plastics

Credits: Plastic deserves the attention it's getting, but other environmental culprits are also causing issues.

Sea lions are threatened by plastic waste too. This endangered species is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and often suffer from the decline of their fish diet which is directly linked to global warming and other negative effects on the environment.

This image shows a sea lion as it helplessly lies on a beach wrapped in a windsock. It was rescued by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, an organization that tries to raise awareness on how serious marine pollution is.

Source: Alaska releases shocking video of sea lions strangled by debris

Manufacturing Waste Is Not Meant to Be a Toy

Credits: For naturally curious animals like otters, plastics can be an enticing lure.

It is estimated that around 80% of the debris that pollutes our seas comes from the mainland’s landfills as a direct consequence of the negligent attitude towards garbage disposal.

When garbage reaches the water, it immediately becomes a threat to marine life. Sea otters are severely affected by plastic waste, too.

This image shows an otter in its natural habitat face-to-face with a plastic bottle which does not belong there at all.

Source: Plastic Pollutes!

Conveniences for Humans Can Be Deadly to Wildlife

Credits: Image: Ingrid Taylar

The abundance of plastic debris in the seas and oceans is so enormous that it chases animal everywhere.

Approximately 100,000 marine mammals and turtles and over one million seabirds are exterminated every year by plastic waste we throw into the world’s oceans.

Some end up trapped in plastic bags; others swallow smaller plastic pieces, mistaking them for food. Even innocent play with plastic waste they find in the water or on the shore can be fatal.

The Problem is Getting Worse Every Day

Credits: Estimates put the number of micro and macroplastics in the oceans at over five trillion.

According to SAS (Surfers Against Sewage), a community that is dedicated to the protection of oceans, approximately eight million pieces of plastic ends up in oceans every single day.

From plastic bags and bottles to smaller pieces like plastic rings, these objects that many of us use on a daily basis turn into deadly ones when they find their way onto beaches and into the seas. Just like the ring on this unfortunate bird’s neck.

Source: Plastic Pollution – Facts And Figures

The Environmental Affects Can Be Seen on the Ocean Floor

Credits: Hermit crabs will use almost anything for a home, including man-made creations.

Hermit crabs are famous for using all sorts of objects for shelter. They can turn pretty much anything into their home as long as the item fits, but is discarded plastic really the best choice they have?

We are sure that nature never intended hermit crabs to live in man-made homes. They are supposed to use the empty shells of other sea creatures, but it looks like it’s now easier for some to find plastic waste homes on the beach.

Source: Hermit crab house swap

Plastic Waste Is Set to Double by 2034

Credits: Despite efforts to curb production, over the past 80 years plastic use has steadily increased.

It is not only the visible garbage people leave behind on the beaches that threaten sea life, but every single plastic item we throw away.

Plastic pollution is a literary everywhere. It can be found on every single beach out there in the world, even the smallest ones on some tropical island in the middle of the ocean, and no one is safe.

The planet’s seven billion human occupants now produce more than 290 million metric tons (over 300 million U.S. tons) of plastic each year.

Source: Plastic Pollution – Facts And Figures

Putting the Pollution Problem into Animal Context

Credits: How deep is plastic pollution reaching? Scientists are finding animals in the world's deepest ocean trench with plastic in their stomachs.

Greenpeace states that approximately 8.3 billion metric tons (over 9 billion U.S. tons) of plastic have been manufactured across the globe since the 1950s.

Compare those numbers with their animal equivalents: the weight of the plastic mentioned above matches the weight of over a billion elephants or, speaking about sea life, 47 million blue whales.

The average weight of a sea lion is about 100 kilograms (220 pounds). We’ll leave you to do the math on how many of those that would involve.

Source: Key Facts About Plastic Pollution

Most Plastics Have Never Had Anywhere to Go

Credits: 30 countries have partila or full bans in place now on the production and use of plastic bags.

At first glance, this may look like a beautiful marine photo of a jellyfish with a fish behind it, but unfortunately, it’s not.

The truth is this photo is sad and tragic as it depicts a fish trapped in a plastic glove.

We know that only about 9% of plastic waste goes to recycling, some 12% gets burned and the rest of it goes to landfills and into the ocean, so should we really be surprised by what we see here?

Beaches Are Turning Into Garbage Buffets

Credits: Clean up efforts are needed, but more focus is required on the sources of ocean pollution.

Scientists warn that about 700 marine species are affected by the plastic waste that floats in the oceans or gets washed up onshore.

According to a 2015 study, 9 out of 10 seabirds pick up some sort of plastic and swallow it. It has also been found  that more than half of the planet’s whale and dolphin populations have ingested plastic waste, as well as at least 1 in 3 sea turtles.

The Overall Numbers Are Staggering

Credits: In 5,010 deep sea submersible dives since 1983, single-use plastics were discovered on 3,425 of them.

Over five trillion plastic pieces are currently in the oceans and that number is on the rise.

A full truckload of plastic garbage is being dumped into the ocean every minute of every day. A 2017 U.N. report estimates there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050.

The question now is this: have we already stepped over the point of no return for rescuing the environment, or is there still hope for our planet’s wildlife?

Source: Even the Deepest Parts of the Ocean Are Polluted With Startling Amounts of Plastic