- A recent analysis published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that nearly 90% of seabirds — including albatrosses, shearwaters, and penguins — have plastic in their stomachs. This number was only 5% in the 1960s.
- Based on current trends, scientists predict that 99% of the world's seabird species will be affected by plastic ingestion by 2050.
- Scientists say that birds think brightly colored plastic is food, therefore they swallow it, which leads to gut impaction, weight loss, and sometimes death. Researchers also found that "garbage patches" — regions in the middle of the sea with the highest densities of plastic — are not as populated by birds. Rather, most of the plastic that is consumed is found closer to shore.
"Every ocean is now filled with plastic," said researcher Erik Van Sebille. "Some have more than others, but what we found is that even the oceans that are not known for their plastic — they still have quite a bit of plastic and they can be where the harm is really done just because that's where all the birds live." Sebille said he is virtually certain that any bird could be found in 2050 with a bit of plastic in its stomach.
It is up to the human population to combat this issue and clean up the oceans before more wildlife is affected. Currently, there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the world's oceans, and those plastics are affecting all types of marine animals. What's even more concerning is that, in 10 years, the amount of plastic entering the oceans could double to an alarming 8 million tons.
Chris Wilcox, a senior research scientist for CSIRO Oceans and Atmosphere Flagship, explained to International Business Journal that our ability to easily fix this issue by improving basic waste management makes it a different environmental crisis than something like climate change. "It ought to be relatively easy to fix," he said.