It is June in the Year of the Bird and this month’s Call to Action is to Skip the Plastic. Our use of plastics has far out-stripped our ability and motivation to keep it out of natural environments. The accumulation of discarded plastic is both plain to see and nearly invisible almost everywhere, creating an acute problem for all life on Earth.
But we are in a time of change—there is real traction around this issue at the individual level and among policy makers and industry leaders. Innovators are offering solutions to municipal waste management and creative ways to repurpose trash.
This month, Year of the Bird spotlights this issue because of the acute challenge it presents to bird conservation. From the National Geographic Society’s Call to Action …
Why is plastic a problem for birds?
• The threat to birds is severe: 90 percent of seabirds eat plastic and virtually every one will be consuming it by 2050. Flesh-footed Shearwaters eat more plastic as a proportion of their body mass than any other marine animal.
• The problem is growing: Scientists have been tracking plastic ingestion by seabirds for decades. In 1960, plastic was found in the stomachs of fewer than five percent, but by 1980, it had jumped to 80 percent. World plastic production has increased exponentially from 2.3 million tons in 1950 to 162 million in 1993 to 448 million by 2015!
How can we all help solve the problem?
• Shop with reusable bags. Shoppers in the United States use almost one plastic bag per resident per day. Shoppers in Denmark use an average of four per year.
• Recycle—this old idea is still far from common place. The United States recycles just 9 percent of its plastic trash.
• Properly dispose of your own trash and pick up litter when you can. Join or organize a community park or beach clean-up.
• Do not purchase plastic bottles and start carrying a reusable straw. Bottles take 450 years to biodegrade.
• Avoid products with plastic packaging and buy in bulk. The largest market for plastics today is packaging materials—most of it never gets recycled or incinerated.
To learn more about this tragic problem and what we can all do to help solve it …
If you haven’t already heard, 2018 is Year of the Bird! The National Geographic Society is celebrating the centenary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act with a year-long celebration of birds. Dozens of Year of the Bird partners, including Klamath Bird Observatory, are coordinating Year of the Bird activities.