The consumption, accumulation and pollution of plastic has become a worldwide epidemic. To date, 3 billion metric tons of plastic has been produced globally and is estimated to double within the next eleven years. Despite its resistance to degradation, only about nine percent of plastic is recycled, leaving 6.3 billion metric tons discarded in landfills or the natural environment. Each year, 8 million metric tons of plastic are deposited into the world’s oceans. As a result, marine life and ecosystems are experiencing irreparable damage.
As exposure to marine plastic pollution has increased, seabirds, shorebirds and wading birds have become especially vulnerable to the detrimental effects. Birds now face consistent incidents of ingestion, entanglement and habitat destruction A recent study reported that as many as 9 out of 10 of the world’s seabirds are likely to have pieces of plastic in their guts. By 2050, scientists estimate that 99% of seabirds will have plastic in them. Ingestion is often fatal, leading to blockage, internal injury, starvation and chemical poisoning. In addition, entanglement in plastic material, such as fishing line, often leads birds injured and incapacitated. Due to a lack of standardized methods, the destructive impacts of plastic on terrestrial ecosystems is largely unexplored compared to that of marine environments. However, it is estimated that 4977 million tons have accumulated in landfills and terrestrial environments. Terrestrial birds are suffering from the destruction of plastic, but often go unseen and undocumented. Plastic pollution needs to be addressed directly and immediately to prevent further devastation to the birds of the world.