Birds are dropping dead off Australia's coast, and it's all our fault (?)
There is no doubt of the problem but its real cause is getting the Nelson's telescope treatment. The marine plastic debris does NOT come from developed countries such as Australia. Such countries have efficient waste collection systems (garbage trucks) which take the waste to a place where it can be dissposed of responsibly. So the debris is not from Western countries. It comes from AFRICA and ASIA -- where people dispose of their rubbish by tossing it into their local river -- whence it flows to sea.
But reforming Africans and Asians is "too hard" so the do-gooders pretend that the problem is where it is not. To admit its real source would be politically incorrect.
If they could bear for any length of time to admit reality, they MIGHT be able to do something useful for the problem -- putting garbage collection barriers across the mouths of the major African and Asian rivers. But that would be too practical, of course. Much more attractive to go around finger-pointing and criticizing your own society.
Deep in their burrows, hungry shearwater chicks on Lord Howe Island await a meal. Their parents have been scouring the sea in search of fish and squid. Instead, they return to feed their babies clothes pegs, bottle tops and Lego pieces.
The flesh-footed sheerwater population at Lord Howe Island is dwindling due to a tidal wave of marine plastic being mistaken for food.
After 90 days the fledglings emerge from their burrows, stomachs bulging with plastic. They prepare for their first flight. Many are so malnourished they die outside the nest. Others make it to the beach, but their undeveloped wings flap in vain and waves engulf them.
Ian Hutton, a naturalist and museum curator on Lord Howe Island, pulls the bodies off the beach. Researchers slice open their stomachs to confirm the cause of death. Once, they found 274 plastic fragments.
“It’s so upsetting to think this bird has been reared by its parents, it’s been fed and it should have a chance to go to sea but it’s died,” he said.
‘When you cut the stomach open and pull out the plastic, some people actually cry when they see it.”
The flesh-footed shearwaters embody what the United Nations has called a “planetary crisis” posed by an unremitting tide of marine plastic.
In the few decades since mass production began in the 1950s, plastic waste is overwhelming rivers and oceans – tossed into waterways, carried by stormwater and winds, and lost overboard from boats.
In Australia 1.5 million tonnes of plastic were used in the year to June 2013 - about 65 kilograms for each person. Only 20 per cent was recycled [The rest went to a proper tip]
Brisbane City Council this week committed to banning plastic straws, single-use plastic bottles and helium balloons from all council events. Environmentalists say other federal, state and local governments can do much more.
University of Tasmania marine eco-toxicologist Jennifer Lavers said the birds “are not picky eaters” and easily tricked by ocean plastic. She said the birds’ numbers are declining due to a range of pressures.
NSW Greens MP Justin Field, who travelled to Lord Howe Island this month, said single-use plastic items such as straws or utensils were often unnecessary and could be limited through stronger regulation.
“It is going to require much more than a recycling mentality. It might even include banning single-use plastics,” he said. “It wasn’t that long ago that food courts had ceramic plates and stainless steel knives and forks. We need to return to that type of thinking.”
A Senate report in 2016 presented 23 recommendations, including developing alternatives to plastic packaging and urgently putting marine plastic pollution on the Council of Australian Government agenda.
The federal government has not responded to the report. It is developing a threat abatement plan to reduce the impact of debris on marine life – a draft version of which Mr Angel described as “unbelievably weak”.
A NSW Environment Protection Authority spokeswoman said the government’s Return and Earn scheme will help meet the state goal of reducing litter volumes by 40 percent by 2020, and 320 million drink containers had so far been returned.
Most major supermarkets will voluntarily phase out lightweight plastic shopping bags this year and NSW was taking part in a national microbead phase-out. The mass release of gas filled balloons is against the law in NSW.
The federal Department of the Environment and Energy said a recent meeting of environment ministers agreed all Australian packaging should be recyclable, compostable or reusable by 2025 or earlier, that Australia’s recycling capabilities be increased and waste reduction be encouraged through consumer awareness, education and industry leadership. A national waste policy will be updated this year and government agencies will prioritise projects that convert waste to energy.