Every piece of plastic ever made still exists, and more is being made every day. In the first decade of this century, more plastic was made than has ever been in existence before 2000, and now an estimated 15-51 trillion pieces of plastic are in the oceans.
Each and every year, hundreds of thousands of seabirds ingest plastic, often mistaking the colours and shapes for prey. Not only do the unforgiving shards fill the stomach on a route to a painful starvation, they are fed to chicks too young to feed themselves, many of which will be lucky to make it to adulthood. An estimated one million seabirds die as a result of plastic every year, a problem that has grown explosively.
In the 1960s, less than 5% of birds were found with plastic in their stomachs. Twenty years on, over 80% of birds had plastic in their stomachs. It is projected that by 2050, 99% of seabird species will be ingesting plastic. More and more birds are washing up on our shores, stomachs filled with a cruel, hard substance that they never should have encountered. With nearly half of the world's seabird species in decline, and 28% classed as globally threatened, chemical pollution from plastics is a "pervasive and growing threat", say researchers.
Entanglement of animals is one of the main environmental impacts of waste plastic. A 2015 review of entanglement records found that the proportion of affected seabirds increased from 16% of species to 25% over the last two decades, and there’s no sign of these figures losing momentum. If nothing changes, and we don’t look for a solution to this global crisis, the future of seabirds all over the world looks bleak.
DIVE PROJECT CORNWALL is working to change this and other devastating impacts of plastic pollution on all marine life. Get involved and make a difference.